Situated high in the mountains of Spain, sits a small town with humble white cottages and just over 2000 residents. It also has a mystery that has baffled scientists for decades. The first in a series of unexplained events occurred within the walls of one Belmez cottage more than 30 years ago…
On 23 August 1971, at what is now 5 Real Street, the Pereira family was about to experience a strange manifestation in their home. Maria Gomez Pereira spied a strange formation on the hearth of her kitchen. A spot that evolved with each passing day until finally the face of a person appeared before her. Maria first believed the face to be a figment of her imagination. A hallucination brought on by the fever she was experiencing that summer. The face, depicted in the form of an expressionist painting, was sad and hauntingly out of place on the cement floor. She called her husband, Juan and son, Miguel to the scene. Miguel confirmed that he could clearly see the face of a male and the Pereira family left their home in fear. The following day, they consulted their neighbors who verified that there was indeed an image of a male face on the hearth. A face that to them, resembled Santa Faz, an image displayed in the Church of Jaen. Miguel took a pickaxe and destroyed the hearth floor that was then re-laid with cement. A week later, on September 8th, the face that was destroyed reappeared on the new floor and in the exact same place as the last. This face was later to be known as the "Pava".
This time, the resurrected "Pava" was not destroyed but was instead, extracted and encased behind a crystal frame.
Word spread quickly throughout the small town, making the Pereira home the center of intense public interest and speculation.
The Pereira family enlisted the assistance of the City Council, who set about the task of excavating the earth beneath the Pereira hearth in the hopes of finding the source of the unusual phenomenon. The council dug a pit beneath the hearth of approximately 2.80 meters deep and 1.50 meters in diameter. What they found were a mass of human bones and two headless skeletons. Later tests found that some of these bones were mainly adolescent dating back to the 13th Century. The remains were later transferred to the catholic cemetery for burial.
The pit was filled and the Pereira kitchen floor was once again re-layered with cement.
Shortly after, many different faces appeared on the floor, male and female, their expressions changing and growing in intensity. Vigorous scrubbing would not erase the images nor would the faces leave despite Miguel's attempts to destroy them with his pickaxe.
The faces were determined to stay.
The growing number of visitors to their town unsettled ecclesiastical and political authorities who had received no satisfactory explanation from local experts as to the cause of the phenomenon. It soon became a necessity to have the "faces" debunked in order to put an end to the disruption that the presence of the inquiring public and media frenzy had caused.
Some members of the local population of Belmez also believed the phenomenon to be a hoax, suggesting that perhaps the neighbor's son, a local talented artist, was responsible for the artwork and was playing a joke on his unsuspecting neighbors.
A 24-hr police guard was later placed outside the Pereira home and all visitors were monitored and questioned closely. There was no doubt that the authorities believed the faces to be a hoax.
In early 1972, a noted parapsychologist invited other notable experts in his field to investigate the faces. Among them was Professor Hans Bender from Germany, who stated that the Belmez faces were "without doubt the most important paranormal phenomenon this century".
To their amazement, the faces on the Pereira cement floor continued to evolve and change expression before their very eyes. Old faces disappeared only to be replaced by new faces. This was not only witnessed by the scientists present, but also by their students, investigators, priests, police, journalists and the thousands of visitors that queued outside the Pereira home. What was even more amazing to note was the fact that the expressions on the faces seemed different for each witness and also seemed to mirror the emotions of the woman of the household, Maria Gomez Pereira.
In the presence of a German television crew, the Pereira household, visitors and the notary, the professors performed a simple experiment by dividing the kitchen floor into sections, photographing the faces of each section, then covering them with a jacket and sealing the edges. They then sealed the room and the windows with wax in the presence of the town notary. The room remained sealed and empty for 3 months.
When the sealed room was opened following the 3-month waiting period, the results proved that the faces beneath the covering jacket had evolved and moved during the time of confinement. Another noteworthy manifestation occurred at the same time but in the new kitchen. The figure that would be later dubbed "Lady in the cup"appeared, the clearest image to date.
When the famous "Pelao" was extracted and sent to Valencia
for examination, a new "Pelao" appeared in the exact same place as the previous one. When the original "Pelao" was returned to the Pereira home, the new one disappeared.
Kodak and the parapsychological laboratory at Freiburg University carried out careful analysis of the experimentation photographs, which showed the photographs to be authentic. Photographic manifestations included the apparitions of hands and claws in photographs.
Professor Hans Bender had mentioned that while in the house, he had been touched from behind on the neck. This resulted in continued research into the home of the Pereira family.
They stringently applied every other known test on the "faces". Experiments were carried out to detect radioactivity, organic and chemical composites as well as carrying out x-ray tests, acoustic tests and infrared and ultraviolet photographic analysis. No evidence of paints or dyes were found in the cement. All these tests arrived with no conclusive scientific explanation for the phenomenon. The investigators were only convinced that the phenomenon appeared free of fraudulent machinations and was perhaps the greatest paranormal discovery of the century.
Electronic voice phenomenon (evp) samples were taken at the Pereira home with startling results. Human cries and moans could be heard on the recordings and include a message stating: "Hell begins here".
Further recordings revealed the faces actually taking part in conversations within the room, although not heard at the time; their voices were played back in the audio recording. One disturbing sample that was heard was "Maria, I want to leave".
Skeptics were quick to debunk the recordings stating that the acoustics in the Pereira home made it possible for conversations taking place in the streets to echo within the walls of the Belmez home.
Strange Goings Ons
Maria's husband died in the room of the "faces" in which his final words exclaimed the vision of the "Pava" smiling at him, as he died a painful death. Months later, his face appeared in the cement, witnessed by Maria and their grandchildren.
Many believe that the phenomenon may also be triggered by psychokinetic energy from a human agent, primarily Maria. It was noted that the faces began to lose their intensity and clarity as Maria Gomez Pereira got older and frailer with age.
Some Investigators believed that the materialization of the faces required 3 observable elements:
-The Human Agent (Maria)
For years, many investigators were convinced that psychokinetic energy played a big part in the phenomenon. Eventually, that theory was tested -- could the phenomenon survive Maria's death?
Farewell Dear Maria
Maria Gomez Pereira, aged 85 years and frail of heart, quietly passed away on the morning of 3rd February 2004. Her deteriorating health in the weeks preceding her death had seen the remainder of her days spent within the confines of a hospital room in Jaen.
On the day of her funeral, hundreds flocked from all over Spain to pay their respects to the woman who was loved by all. A woman who had carried on her shoulders the burden of an inexplicable phenomenon.
The Faces Live On
Shortly after Maria's passing, another extensive examination of the famous floor was conducted, and it confirmed that the faces continued its evolution with each passing day.
The house and its mysterious kitchen floor had survived the blitz of curious onlookers, scientists, paranormal enthusiasts and investigators over the past 3 decades, leaving experts in the field no closer to the truth than they were 33 years ago.
On July 2004, the house with its evolving faces was placed on the market. Its future and its owner are not yet known.
The house remains a living testimony that there are some things on this earth that continue to elude scientific explanation.