Monday, October 21, 2013

A Life of Fear: The Bélmez Faces

In 1971, in Bélmez, Spain, a housewife named Maria Cámara noticed an image of a human face on the cement floor of her kitchen. The face gazed out impassively and resisted any attempt to wash it away. It appeared to be scoured deep into the surface of the floor. Maria's husband and son were only able to remove the image by destroying and relaying the concrete of the floor.

Shortly afterward the face reappeared, this time frowning as if angry at the attempt to remove it. Understandably disturbed, the Cámara family reached out to friends in the community and word of the phenomenon quickly spread. Additional faces began to appear in the stone walls of the house. Any attempt to remove them was also unsuccessful. Some claimed that over time they would evolve, their position and expressions gradually shifting as they moved through the stone.

Within a year the house became a tourist attraction and was dubbed La Casa de las Caras (The House of the Faces). The Bélmez faces eventually drew a large amount of scientific scrutiny. Analyses of the composition of the images revealed them to be forgeries created by chemical etching. Despite this fact, some parapsychologists maintain (as parapsychologists are wont to do) that the images are thoughtographic projections - manifestations of the Cámara family's subconscious minds projected into the stone.

I read about the Bélmez faces in an anthology of the paranormal (whose name is long forgotten to me) when I was about ten years old. Amidst all the malicious hauntings and creatures featured in the book, the faces were by far the most enigmatic due to their sheer benevolence. They were baffling to me - what could these strange beings want with the Cámara family?

After reading this story, I was haunted by the photographs shown in the book. Their crude smirks and scowls floated in the back of my mind as I tried to sleep that night. I'd seen similar faces in our house - most frequently buried amidst the patterns in the grain of the wood doors. What if these faces turned malicious? What if they started changing? My thoughts spiraled into panic and I ended up downstairs in the living room with my father. It was only then, in the well-lit room with the lull of a TV sitcom laugh track in the background, that I was able to fall back to sleep.

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