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View Faces in Trees

People often see shapes and patterns that they regard as meaningful in the natural world around them. For instance, they might see a face in a cloud, or a religious symbol in the shape of a rock.  During the Middle Ages these shapes seen in natural objects were known as Lusus Naturae, or Jokes of Nature. It was the belief of medieval naturalists that Nature actually played jokes on man by purposefully placing shapes such as crosses or faces in objects for men to find.

Nowadays, science attributes such shapes to the power of the human mind to impose meaning on the chaos of the world around it. This psychological phenomenon is known as pareidolia, which refers to the tendency of the mind to discern meaningful patterns in vague or random stimuli.

Trees offer a random natural surface on which the human eye often perceives recognizable shapes—faces, in particular. As a result, stories about people seeing faces in trees are a regular feature in the news. In the western world observers are most likely to describe a male face in a tree as looking like Jesus, and a female figure (particularly a robed one) as being the Virgin Mary. Collected below are some examples of recent sightings of faces in trees.

Moorpark Jesus Tree

August, 2007: Irma Lopez, of Moorpark, CA, was watering her front yard when, she says, “I noticed an area on the tree that resembles Jesus. I threw down the hose and told my daughter Lisa to come outside.” Her daughter, Lisa, was pregnant, and neighbors suggested that the sudden appearance of the image was a “sign of God,” “a true blessing for her and her family.” Flowerpots and a candle were placed at the base of the tree. (Source: Ventury County Star)

Memphis Church Tree

June, 2007: Members of the St. Michaels Church on Summer Avenue in Memphis noticed an image of a face on a tree near their parking lot. They claim that the face looks like that of Jesus. (Source: wmctv.com)

Illinois Mayor Tree

mayortree.jpg June, 2007: Residents of Rosemont, Illinois (a suburb of Chicago) reported that they could see the likeness of their late mayor’s face on the bark of a fifty-foot-tall sycamore tree located outside the Willow Creek Health Club on 10255 Higgins Rd. Mayor Donald Stephens had died on April 18, 2007. When the face was first noticed, observers initially thought it looked like the bearded face of Jesus. However, later observers noticed that it bore a likeness to the official portrait of the mayor hanging inside the club’s entrance. It was said that the likeness was particularly noticeable if you viewed the image from inside the club, looking out through the glass doors. (Source: Chicago Tribune)

Southwest Chicago Jesus Tree

March, 2007: Residents of a southwest Chicago neighborhood noticed that a pattern on a local tree resembled Christ on the cross. At night the image became more noticeable on account of a nearby streetlight. (Source: wcsh6.com)

Crystal City, Texas Jesus Tree

February, 2007: Residents of Crystal City, Texas flocked to Avenue D where, observers claimed, they could see the crucified figure of Jesus hanging in the branches and gnarled limbs of a tree. Hundreds of believers left mementos and flowers around the tree. (Source: MySanAntonio.com)

Jacksonville, Florida Jesus Face

January, 2007: A woman walking her dog in Jacksonville Florida noticed that a bark pattern on a tree located on the property of Daryl Brown looked like the face of Jesus. Believers claimed that they could clearly see the face, eyes, and crown of Jesus. (Source: Local6.com)

Ohio Nativity Scene

December, 2006: Matt Miller, a homeowner in Columbus, Ohio, removed part of a stump in his yard with a chain saw. After he did this, he claimed that what remained of the stump looked—when viewed from the front—like a nativity scene of the Virgin Mary leaning over a cradle. (Source: Families.com)

Kampung Paya Scary Face

September, 2006: Residents of Kampung Paya, in Malaysia, noticed that a scary-looking face had formed on the frond of a Pinang tree. Hundreds of visitors came to look at the face. Vendors quickly set up stalls to sell food, snacks, drinks, and photographs of the tree. Some visitors cut off some of the exposed roots of the tree, perhaps in an attempt to take a souvenir home with them. (Source: TheStar.com)

Houston Jesus Face

November, 2005: After her family cleared a bunch of branches away from a tree in her yard, Theresa Escobedo noticed an image of the eyes, nose and beard of Jesus in the tree. However, some neighbors disagreed with her interpretation. One man was quoted as saying, “I just see a man with, you know, a beard.” (Source: local6.com)

Oak Cliff Virgin Mary

November, 2005: When Oak Cliff, Texas resident Eva Alejandro-Peña saw an image of the Virgin Mary in one of her trees, she told her husband, who immediately contacted a local TV station. Soon the tree was being talked about on Spanish-language media outlets throughout the Americas. Numerous believers made the trip to see the tree, with over 500 people arriving to see it one night. Alejandro claimed that people offered her as much as $1 million for the tree, but she turned down the offers, believing that the tree was a blessing that needed to be shared with everyone. (Source: Dallas Observer)

Maple Tree Jesus


October, 2005: 54-year-old Jim Holtz was meeting his friends for coffee, when he noticed an image of Jesus on a silver maple tree on the front lawn of the Hickey-Freeman Co. clothing factory in Rochester, New York. Holtz said, “I’ve looked at that tree thousands of times in the past couple years, but never noticed it till now. At first I thought I was seeing things.” (Source: WorldNetDaily.com)

Jesus in Hawthorn Tree

August, 2005: Non-practising Hindu Sewdutt Maunick was relaxing in his garden in Burgess Hill, Sussex, when he looked up and saw a face on the trunk of one his trees. He told his wife about it, who identified the face as Jesus. Pastor Elaine Thomas later identified it as a revelation from God. (Source: news.bbc.co.uk)

Bosnian Jesus Tree

July 2005: Residents of Bijeljina, a town in northwest Bosnia, reported seeing the face of Jesus in a section of a tree branch that had been cut approximately a year before. Reportedly, the face could only be discerned from a distance, not up close.  Christian pilgrims flocked to see the image. People knelt before it to pray, lit candles, left money, and cut off pieces of the tree bark. The bishop of the region urged the people not to leave money or to destroy the tree. (Source: int.iol.co.za)

East Chicago Shadow Jesus

July, 2005: The glare from a streetlight in East Chicago cast a shadow on a tree that many believed looked like an image of Jesus holding his hands together and looking down. Some also said that a shadow cast on a neighboring tree looked like the Virgin Mary gazing over at Jesus. Hundreds of people came to see the trees until the city cut the lights off, because area residents were complaining about the crowds.  (Source: NBC5.com)

Old Man in Tree

March, 2005: Residents of the Rone’s Chapel community near Mount Olive, North Carolina noticed that there appeared to be a face of an old man in a tree near the home of Billy Spurgeon. Apparently no one suggested it looked like the face of Jesus. (Source: Goldsboro News-Argus)

Pecan Tree Jesus

March, 2004: Clyde Jackson was barbecuing in his backyard in Natchitoches, Louisiana when he happened to look up and spotted Jesus in his pecan tree. His backyard quickly became a popular stop for visitors curious to see the image for themselves. (Source: 10news.com)

Milwaukee Jesus Tree

December, 2001: A week before Christmas, Ella Huffin, a resident of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, was looking out her window at her yard when she saw an image of Jesus in one of her trees. She said it just appeared out of nowhere. According to her,  the image shows Jesus looking down at a baby he’s holding. Reportedly, the image is easiest to see in the late afternoon and on overcast days. (Source: JSOnline.com)

The Quincy Shepherd Tree

July 1998:  It stands in the Calvary Cemetery in Quincy, Illinois. They call it the Shepherd Tree because, so observers say, it looks like a figure of Jesus holding a lamb in his arms. Once word of it started to spread around, the groundskeepers at the cemetery had to place a fence around the tree to protect it. Too many visitors were attempting to remove bark from the tree. However, a local Reverend noted that, “What constitutes a miracle is a little bit more than a tree that bears a similarity to Christ.” (Source: JavaForJesus.com)

Our Lady of Watsonville

June, 1993: Anita Contreras was kneeling to pray for her children when she looked up and saw a foot-high image of the Virgin Mary in a nearby tree. The tree was located in Watsonville, California. It soon became a popular attraction for believers hoping the Virgin Mary would bless them with a miracle. (Source: Skepdic.com)

Milford Maple Tree Jesus

July, 1992: Claudia Voight was looking at an 80-foot-tall maple tree on Hawley Avenue in Milford, Connecticut when she noticed a face that looked like the face of Jesus. “It took my breath away,” she said. “I told my friend to come over and pretty soon we had the entire neighborhood here looking.” The tree quickly became a local attraction. However, Rev. John Gatzak, director of radio and television for the Archdiocese of Hartford, said that people should try to find the visible signs of Jesus Christ in each other, “not in trees.” (Source: New York Times)

Face Revealed by Lightning Bolt

December, 1989: A tree outside the offices of Graphic Impressions in Salisbury, North Carolina was struck by lightning and killed in the mid 1980s. As the bark fell off, it revealed two eyes, a nose, and a mouth complete with teeth. Frank Goodnight, owner of Graphic Impressions, said that he was thinking of cutting the tree down and moving the face into his office. (Source: The Frederick Post, December 20, 1989: D-6)

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