May 6, 2005

The Virgin Mary Doesn't Drip Here Anymore

The Underpass Virgin Mary is no more. The city I claim as my own has enjoyed a cement wall stain, I mean visitation from the Holy Mother, for the last month or so. The faithful and possibly unemployed have been flocking to an underpass under the Kennedy Expressway to offer flowers and prayer, sometimes to the point of obstructing the usual flow of traffic in that area.

Today a Chicago man was arrested for painting the words "Big Lie" over the smudgy image, which inspired the faithful to then pray and mourn. Mourn. The loss of a water stain.

"The stain was likely the result of salt runoff, according to the Illinois Department of Transportation."

The cause of the stupidity that inspires this kind of religious devotion to a natural phenomenon has, of course, multiple causes.

In 1996, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to a bank in Clearwater, Florida, where an image said to resemble the Virgin Mary appeared as a function of the corrosion of building materials, until a teenage boy hurled a rock through the window.

The Skeptic's Dictionary on this phenomenon, which is known as pareidolia, "a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something clear and distinct."
Just for fun, a cognitive psychologist's academic web page about a cinnamon bun that looked like Mother Teresa.

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