What lies under the Faces of Bélmez?

The appearance of strange human faces in Bélmez began in August 1971, when María Gómez Cámara ― wife of Juan Pereira and a housemaker ― complained that a human face was formed on her concrete kitchen floor. Her husband destroyed the picture with a pickaxe only to have it reappear on the floor. Later, the mayor of Bélmez prohibited the destruction of the image and instead the concrete floor was cut and taken for study.

Faces of Belmez
One of the most famous Faces of Bélmez

For the next thirty-two years, the Pereira family claimed that faces continued to appear of both male and female and of different shapes and sizes. Then, when the floor of the house was dug, it was found to contain the remains of humans. It was speculated that a graveyard existed underneath the house.

The Faces Of Bélmez

In the Andalusian province of Jaén, at the foot of the Sierra Magna, among endless plantations that offer the raw material for the best olive oil in Spain, is Bélmez de la Moraleda. It’s a small town with a castle surrounded by the peak of Carboneras, where its 1,500 inhabitants live peacefully, most of whom are dedicated to agriculture and the production of an oil that has protection and the pride of having a designation of origin.

Calm, stillness and silence are the main characteristics of its streets, especially in summer, when the Mediterranean sun beats down on these lands. But everything was different that warm noon on August 23, 1971. In a few minutes word spread throughout the town that a strange image resembling a human face had appeared on the kitchen floor of María Gómez Cámara’s house.

Neither the mayor, nor the priest, nor the chief of the municipal police found any rational explanation. Then the hypotheses were triggered on the side of the supernatural; especially when, fed up with all the fuss, one of María Gómez’s sons and her husband decided to destroy the image and cover the site with cement. A few days later the face ― apparently male, with open eyes and mouth and long dark lines like whiskers ― reappeared in the new concrete.

Faces Of Bélmez
Faces Of Bélmez appeared in ‘The House of the Faces.’

These were the first of the more than 1,000 faces that appeared on the floors and walls of all the rooms of the house as well as the pavement of the property for years, which made Bélmez the center of attention of curious people who came to see the phenomenon with their eyes.

Faces Of Bélmez
Faces Marked for Analysis

According to several experts in parapsychology, this phenomenon is called “teleplasty.” Which consists of the “appearance by chance of more or less recognizable shapes or figures on a surface, due to a supposed contact of these surfaces with ectoplasm.” For mainstream science, it is “pareidolia,” a psychological phenomenon where a vague and random stimulus is mistakenly perceived as a recognizable form.

“I saw a stain on the ground that day, but I figured it was my hallucinations because I had a fever and I wasn’t feeling well,” said María Gómez Cámara, of whom several experts said that she was able to do ‘teleplasty’ which consists of in being able to capture thoughts in images. But the mayor still defended the honesty of this woman, who agreed to have the kitchen sealed and covered for a few months under the supervision of a notary. When the room was re-entered, 17 new faces had appeared.

Paranormal Tourism In Bélmez

Thanks to the reports of the El Pueblo newspaper, María Gómez became famous throughout Spain, but there was no shortage of scientists and experts who described the faces of a gigantic fraud. Her son, Diego Pereira, was said to have painted them with nitrates and silver chloride. And a spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior declared that everything was a setup, threatening the family with a judicial proceeding for fraud.

Faces Of Bélmez Maria Gómez house
Maria Gómez house in 2012, with a sign indicating the schedule of visits.

The fact is that at the height of the phenomenon there were weekends in which about 10,000 people approached Bélmez to see the faces that were erased, reappeared and moved on the ground. María Gómez Cámara did not charge to let people in her house, but she did accept tips. Her husband teamed up with a photographer to sell the images for 15 pesetas. Some gossips assured that the owner came to enter the fortune of about a million pesetas in 1972 when there were long lines at her door.

What’s Revealed Later?

Next year, geological studies showed that the house was built on an ancient cemetery, which would explain the voices and whispers that were also heard in the place that forced them to dig the ground, revealing bones from a 13th-century graveyard. “The strange thing was that they found bones but no skulls,” said Lorenzo Fernandez, the author of a book on the “Faces of Bélmez”.

María Gómez, a native of the town, died in February 2004 at the age of 85 years and, shortly after her expiration, new faces appeared in another house where she had been born and lived, which strengthened the thesis of those who believed in her extrasensory psychic powers. But this time, the newspaper El Mundo published an article with the headline, “New Belmez Faces Faked by ‘Ghostbusters’ and Municipal Government.”

To this day, opinions remain divided on whether the faces of Bélmez were a great fraud or were a product of the mind of María Gómez Cámara, who always claimed to be a normal woman, tormented by a tragic past in which part of her family died on the site of the sanctuary of Santa María de la Cabeza during the Civil War. Let each one draw their conclusions.