Monday, February 28, 2022

The Faces of Bélmez

"Spring is the usual period for house-cleaning and removing the dust and dirt which, notwithstanding all precautions, will accumulate during the winter months from dust, smoke, gas, etc." - Mrs Beeton.

It's nearly March, traditionally a time when one might indulge in a spot of Spring cleaning; airing out the house after winter and scrubbing it from top to bottom to freshen things up a bit. And while you might find a few unwanted items lying around your home, you'll have to go a long way to beat the Pereira family's eerie kitchen discovery.
It was the summer of 1971 and, in the sleepy Spanish village of Bélmez de la Moraleda, Maria Pereira had spotted an odd stain in the concrete floor of her kitchen. Not anything unusual in a busy family home. After all, it was possible that someone had spilt something and not cleaned it up quick enough. So Maria wasn't really all that concerned. She cleaned the floor and went about her day. But the stain didn't wash away, and to Maria's horror, it developed further as the week passed. Now, staring up at her was a face. Distorted but clearly human. Scrub as hard as she might, Maria couldn't wash it away. Her husband, Juan, decided to solve the problem with a spot of DIY. If soap and water wouldn't rid them of the face, then a pickaxe would. With the help of their son, Miguel, he set about breaking up and relaying the kitchen floor. It was an annoyance, but it was worth the hassle if it meant that peace would return to their home.
Peace didn't return to their home, but the face did. A new one this time. Even clearer than the last, and it was not alone. The family tried their best, but nothing would make the faces go away. Soon news of the strange happenings got out, spreading through the village like wildfire. The Pereira's neighbours came to take a look, soon news spread even further until people were visiting the house from all over the country, demanding to see the sinister faces. Many believers in the paranormal felt the faces were linked to Maria, as it was believed locally that she was a medium. Sceptics accused the family of faking the phenomenon for fame and riches. Before long the creepy kitchen floor was in the news worldwide, and everyone was wondering the same thing; what is going on here? I wish I had a straightforward answer for you, but people are torn between three theories even today.

Theory One: they were painted.
When news about the faces got out it attracted a lot of experts, including scientists, some of whom were parapsychologists. It's worth noting that some of these scientists were more sceptical than others, but all of them sought to prove or disprove human involvement. 
Many tests were done on the faces themselves, with samples being sent off to labs. One investigator went as far as to lock the family out of the kitchen, but the faces continued to appear regardless. Even when areas of the floor were covered, new faces would appear under the covering with no apparent signs of tampering. And considering that the faces expressions would change throughout the day, it would be a lot of work for family members to be erasing and repainting them, and even more challenging to do so without being caught.
The scientists involved seemed unable to agree on whether the phenomenon was an act of forgery or not. While some claim that they had proven that the faces were caused by paint or chemicals, others swore that they weren't, and some came back with inconclusive results. 

Theory Two: it was linked to Maria.
As previously stated, it was believed locally that Maria was a spirit medium. As a result, some felt that she was somehow causing the haunting. It was theorised that she was, unknowingly, psychically projecting the images onto the floor. This is an act known as Thoughtography, also known as Spirit Photography. Typically this psychic feat is performed using new camera film, with the psychic burning the images straight onto it. The images would then be visible on the negatives and the photos themselves once developed. It's incredibly unusual for the images to appear anywhere else. Some of you may be familiar with this psychic ability as it featured in The Ring.
The faces appeared, whether Maria was home or not, but it's been said that the phenomena did slow down when she wasn't there, although it didn't halt completely. The faces were known to change their expressions, and some have pointed out that the facial expressions coincided with Maria's moods. 

Theory Three: It was a haunting, but not one linked to Maria.
A local legend tells of a family who once lived in the village. This family was brutally murdered. Many who believed the faces to be of paranormal origins, including one of the investigating experts, thought the Pereira family home to be the site of the murders. While this seems like a theatrical take on what could be happening, there is no evidence that the murdered family ever lived in that house.
One attempt to get rid of the Faces resulted in the floor not only being smashed up but being dug up entirely. There, under all the dust and rubble, they found human remains. Skeletons that had clearly been there for a very long time. The Pereira family home was built within a stones throw of a local church. There's a strong possibility that the house was constructed accidentally over a forgotten bit of the graveyard. Having been disturbed and not being very happy about it, the dead may have been trying to voice their displeasure by appearing through the floor. EVPs were also recorded in the kitchen, which included many different voices, including children.

Though the cause of these odd happenings has yet to officially be discovered, it's a very interesting tale none the less. Maria passed away in 2004, but the faces didn't stop appearing, which in my mind rules out Theory Two. Also, during the investigations, nobody (to the best of my knowledge.) bothered to test Maria to see if she was actually psychic. 
This was one of my favourite tales growing up. I've been fascinated with the Faces of Belmez since I first saw them staring up at me from a library book. I just love the mystery of it.
Despite that, I'd love to see another investigation done, as I feel that with a team of scientists co-operating with each other instead of doing separate tests and modern ghost hunting equipment, we might finally get a concrete answer as to what caused all of this. Pun not intended.