The Mystery of the Belmez Faces

Bélmez de la Moraleda is a small village of some 2000 souls nestled in the foothills of southern Spain. The village is described as neat as a pin and almost painfully clean. However, for more than 30 years, Bélmez de la Moraleda has been the site of strange and controversial phenomena.

One house in this small town has, since 1971, been the epicenter of bizarre goings on. In 1971, María Gómez Cámara announced that the image of a face had appeared on her concrete floor. She and her family had done everything to remove the image, including removing the floor material. Yet the face persisted. Shortly other faces soon joined the first. Soon these faces were everywhere on the floor of the Cámara house and nothing could make these apparitions go away. These faces were of all sizes and shapes; some smiled, some screaming, some on top of others. They soon became known as the Faces of Bélmez.

Soon psychic believers called it a case of “thoughtography”, stating that Cámara’s thoughts had a telekinetic effect and had projected images from her mind onto the floor. Soon Cámara and her family began charging admission for tourists to see the faces. Further, María Gómez Cámara before her death in 2004 was among the most influential people in Bélmez. With other villagers seeking her advice because of her supposed psychic ability and her close connections to the powers that be. Almost every day, decisions were made based on Cámara’s guidance.

Shortly after the announcement of the existence of the faces the village mayor had a sample removed for testing. The hoax was easily revealed. The faces were quickly shown to have been painted on the concrete floor, at the start with paint and later with etched on the floor with acid. María Gómez Cámara was perpetrating a hoax on the public for financial gain. After discovering that the faces were in fact a hoax, the city banned any further tourist business from being conducted. However, that did not stop the Cámara family and the images continued to appear until Cámara’s death 33 years after the first face appeared.

The debunking and the injunction against tourist activity did nothing to discourage outside visitors from trying to seek out the house in Bélmez and see the famous or infamous faces.

Sources:

Tort, C. “Belmez Faces Turned Out to Be Suspiciously ‘Picturelike’ Images.” Skeptical Inquirer. 1 Mar. 1995, Volume 19, Number 2: 4.

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