We all know Jesus was Found Dead in His Grave, but did you know dead Pope John Paul II has been found alive in flames during a bonfire ceremony celebrating the second anniversary of his death?

This curious phenomenon where we imprint what we wish to see — mainly
religious iconography — upon inanimate objects and clouds and burned
toast is called “Pareidolia” and you can read more about it in this
article, Pareidolia and a Face in the Cloud.

Why do we place meaning in changing semiotics and consequence in happenstance?
Do our brains process what we want to see or what we need to vision?
In the image below, is the Dancer spinning clockwise or counter-clockwise?

Most people claim the dancer is spinning counter-clockwise. I see her
spinning clockwise but if I avert my eyes and read a series of numerals
and then look back at her, she is spinning counter-clockwise!

I have
yet to make her spin either way at will, but I’m working on it.
Here’s the rationale for why we see her spinning as we do. If she spins
clockwise, then you use your right brain more than your left and vice

If you look at flames and you don’t see Pope John Paul
II waving back at you — does that indicated a lack of faith, a failure
of right brain fantasy, or a larger wish to see a naked dancer spinning
in silhouette?


  1. She only spins clockwise for me. And, my right brain is damn near dead. I have little to no artistic ability and tons of logic, math, and science ability, by comparison to my own skills. I do not claim to have better logic, math, and science than say an actual scientist or mathematician. I’m just a geek.
    As for the pope in the fire, does this mean the pope is burning in hell? If so, perhaps it’s because of this 1996 admission to the good staff of The Onion.

  2. Scott!
    She’s spinning counter for me just now! That’s wild because I usually only see her going “that way” for a few seconds. Now I can’t get her to spin back the right way!
    Love that Onion link! Heh! Reminds me of a “Family Guy” rerun I saw last night when Stewie was re-creating the Abraham and Isaac drama with God and Abraham kept asking God to “get closer to the microphone so I can hear you…”
    As for the Fiery Pope… is he imitating hellfire or inviting us to Burning Man? 😉

  3. I am also reminded of the Family Guy.
    Peter: Oh my G-d, Brian, there’s a message in my Alphabits. It says, “Oooooo.”
    Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.
    We see shapes in the clouds and you can see a shocked face in your electrical outlets – it’s a phenomenon specific to the human mind in that our brain in its spider web like glory makes connections that aren’t necessarily real. One person could see a maternal religious figure, another could see Marlene Dietrich.

  4. I was never a fan of Family Guy until recently, Gordon. Now, I can’t get enough of that show!
    I think you’re on target that we seek to “find” things in the abstract that comfort us in desperate times. I think Jesus is more found in these things than the Devil ever was in order to bring significance and fact finding to the belief process.

  5. Interesting!!!
    I can see her spinning both ways – not at my will though!
    If I take a break for a couple of minutes – she is spinning reverse!!!
    I am not sure which side of my brain works better…hmmm…

  6. Katha —
    Is is so strange to be so certain she is spinning one way and then you look again and she’s gone in reverse!
    How can eyewitnesses to crimes ever be believed now?

  7. Yes, the same way we are eyewitnessing the dancer. Some see her spinning one way while the others see her spinning another even though we’re all looking at the same image.
    “Tell me, which way did she spin before you say she shot the officer? Counter-clockwise or clockwise?”

  8. i dont see the pope even with his picture next to the fire. the dancer is new one for me she looks like going counter to me

  9. Katha!
    Me, either! I think every lawyer in the world will want a “dancer” as part of their defense team.
    Let her dance for the jury — they argue over which way she’s spinning — you win in a “he said, she said” gambit when it comes to eyewitnesses who disagree about what happened!

  10. What about the final judgement then?
    Lost in the midst of this “dancing scene?”
    And the lawyers get their fee/hour?
    Oh yes, I don’t see the “pope image” too!

  11. Ha, Nicola! I don’t get the Pope, either. 😀
    Now ask the rest of your family about the dancer. Try to see her go the other way. It will shock your mind the first time it happens. It’s uncanny!

  12. Kathakali & David,
    There are numerous reports both in peer reviewed scientific literature and not, stating strongly that eyewitness testimony is among the least reliable sources of information. And yet, we convict people based on it all the time. It’s really quite shocking how bad the human mind is as a recording mechanism for factual information.

  13. You’re right, Scott. That’s a chilling notion that should be ended in the courts. Eyewitnesses must be unreliable.
    I guess we’re all so certain what we see is what we see that we cannot comprehend anyone else would see the same event in a different manner.
    The teaching magic in the dancer isn’t in the solitary observation but in the group sharing when people hold up their hands and swear she’s spinning in the opposite direction than the majority mindset.

  14. ummmm…I first saw the dancer spinning clockwise. When I came back to it a minute later I was amazed to see it spinning counter-clockwise. So I tried to see how I was able to see it both ways.
    If you pay close attention….especially to the feet…..you can see a moment of hesitation every minute or so where the girl changes her direction. So this experiment is kind of a faulty one – it just depends on when you look at it!
    But I get the overall point….just a bad example I think.

  15. It does look like she spins one way 30 times or so and then another way 30 times or so — but is the direction of the initial spin dictated by one side of the brain or not?
    I’ve tested this with 5-7 people in the same room and everyone is watching her spin at the same time and yet no one ever agrees 100% on the spin direction while viewing in unison.
    I do like the idea her direction of spin depends when you catch her in the animated GIF cycle — as well as the extrapolated idea when you see a crime in progress from which angle and what viewpoint — but it doesn’t really make sense to me based on the group watching patterns.

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