Case of the Belmez Faces
In August of 1971, the small village of Bélmez de la Moraleda in southern Spain became the scene of supposed paranormal activity. Initial reports told the following story of what became known as the "Belmez Faces."
Maria Gõmez Cámara noticed an image of a man's face had appeared on her cement kitchen floor. At first, she assumed it was just a freak anomaly and a week later her son and husband tore up the blemished spot with a pickaxe and poured fresh cement.
A week later, another face appeared in the same spot and others began appearing throughout the house. The family intended to redo the floor again, but the town mayor requested the slab be removed and preserved for posterity. Actually, the mayor’s intent was to have it tested for evidence of a scam.
The property had at one time been a grave yard and on a hunch they dug down about nine feet. Human remains were found, removed and reinterred with a proper burial. They then poured a new floor. Two weeks later, another man's face materialized. After yet another two weeks, the face of a woman surrounded by about a dozen tiny faces emerged in the cement.
Before long paranormal enthusiasts, skeptics and curiosity seekers descended upon the home. Many touted the images as the best evidence for paranormal activity ever recorded. Skeptics however, were certain it had to be a hoax.
Some visitors were able to see the faces appear as they watched. Sometimes they would appear and disappear the same day. Recordings were made and when the tapes were played later, it was said whispering and wailing sounds could be heard.
The floor was redone numerous times with the same results. The images were scoured with cleaning agents, but still they persisted. Psychics called it a case of "thoughtography.” They claimed Cámara's thoughts had a telekinetic effect which projected images from her mind onto the floor.
At a loss to explain the phenomenon, Chemists were brought in to test samples of the cement. At this point there are different versions of what the results showed. Some claim the results were negative for any trace of paint or dyes. Others say some slight traces of chemical elements and acid were found. Yet others say they were somehow painted on. Naturally, skeptics jumped on this fact to denounce the images as a fraud for monetary gain. After all, by this time Maria was charging admission to the spectacle.
However, further scientific test results easily proved the images to be forgeries. And these tests were performed by noted parapsychologists. The images had been painted on. Ramos Perera, president of the Spanish Society of Parapsychology, said La Pava, the most famous of the Bélmez faces, had coloration which proved it had been painted. "Through infrared photography we saw this one had added pigmentation and even the paint brush bristles could be perceived.”
With this evidence in hand, Maria was officially banned from charging tourists admission, but reportedly she continued raking in the cash for another 30 years.
More chemical analysis on the Bélmez faces was performed by J.J. Alonso, a researcher of Spain's High Council of Scientific Research. His report confirmed the presence of a melanocratic compound.
María Cámara, who allegedly produced the appearances, died in February 2004 at the age of 85 years. After her death another distinguished psychic, Pedro Amorós tried to "discover" more thoughtographic appearances in the house. Not surprisingly, he encountered more. However, his claims were widely debunked in the Spanish media. One newspaper, El Mundo, bannered the headline "New Belmez Faces Faked by 'Ghostbusters' and Municipal Government." Other publications pointed to María's son, Diego Pereira, as the perpetrator.