The case of the ‘Bélmez Faces’ remains one of the most widely documented and continually baffling paranormal events of the 20thcentury.
The small mountain village of Bélmez de la Moraleda was home to a small farming family. In the summer of 1971, Mrs Maria Gomez Pereira noticed a dark stain forming on her kitchen floor. Nothing had been spilled and there was no reason for the stain. Pereira scrubbed her floor and thought little of it. Little did she know that her home would soon be known worldwide as ‘the house of faces.’
Over a period of seven days, the mysterious stain turned into the clear image of a face. A face that would not disappear, no matter how intensely Maria cleaned.
As with most instances such as this, the family were no strangers to supernatural belief, with Maria Pereira herself claiming to be a spirit medium. Initially, many locals cited this as the cause of these mysterious happenings.
Reportedly disturbed by the image, Maria, her husband Juan and son Miguel, destroyed the image by removing the entire floor with a pickaxe. They replaced the floor with fresh concrete and all returned to normal, for about a week. Soon after, a new face appeared, clearer than the last.
The family wanted rid of the face, and resigned themselves to removing another floor. Yet by now, word of the apparition had spread. The mayor of Bélmez intervened to have the face removed for study and exhibition. Subsequently, it was reported that ‘analysis of the floor showed no reason for the apparition.’ The family asked the council for further help, but to no avail.
Again, as the floor was repaired, a new face appeared; this was destroyed, repaired, and the cycle continued. Yet soon, there was not just one face staring back at the family, but many. Some faded and disappeared by December of the same year, but new ones soon took their place.
The floor of the house was quickly covered in a vast array of faces. Local interest went into overdrive and the local police force was swiftly brought in to control the gathering crowds.
But why did the faces appear?
In April of the following year, a Professor De Argumosa travelled from Mardrid to Bélmez after hearing about the case. He announced that, through his research, he had unearthed several historic documents reporting that a seventeenth century governor of Granada (born in Bélmez) had murdered five members of a local family. The whereabouts of the murder site was vague, but was believed to have taken place nearby to or in the Pereira household itself.
Another theory posed by several sources was that, as the house was so close to a church, it was probably built on the site of an old cemetery. Indeed, when the floor was removed and fully excavated, human remains were found several feet below. Many of the skeletons had no skulls and the bodies were reinterred into a nearby Catholic cemetery. Some contemporary reports cite the excavated remains to have been dated at around 700 years old.
It must be said that human remains were also found under other neighbouring houses, although the Pereira house was the only to report apparitions.
After the removal of the remains and the replacement of the floor, the faces were expected to be a thing of the past. For a few weeks, this was the case and the town resumed its day-to-day business.
Professor De Argumosa’s psychical research and monitoring was not limited to archive work. He made several EVP recordings of sounds from within the house, including the voice of a child. The sounds captured were said to resemble ‘a mixture of hell and a brothel.’ Considering Maria cited herself as having mediumistic powers, it should be mentioned that she was absent during the recordings.
On 6thJune 1972, another face appeared on the floor and gradually seemed to change its expression. Several more appeared, prompting further investigation. Foil was placed over the floor (in order to reduce opportunities for fraud), but again, the faces appeared.
To continue his investigations free from the family’s daily life, Professor De Argumosa paid half the cost to have another room in the house converted into a kitchen.
As if like clockwork, faces began to form in the new, ‘replacement’ kitchen.
In September 1981, José Martinez Romero, a writer and paranormal investigator, visited the Pereira household and recorded his experiences. Romero claimed that he personally witnessed the appearance and disappearance of several faces in the new kitchen. Romero took photographs, which showed nothing. He suggested he may have been hallucinating the faces, but this did little to dampen the infamy of the residence.
Romero returned to the house in 1988 alongside fellow investigator Andrew MacKenzie. The faces were still present, yet Romero was most surprised by which the manner they had changed. The faces were darker and less defined than before. This led him to believe that there was a direct link between the faces and Maria Pereira’s state of mind. When Maria was feeling unwell, the images would be faint in colour. This led Romero to deduce that when Maria died, the images would disappear permanently.
Other investigators have offered their own theories, with many holding Maria as the central influence. One explanation (for those who choose to believe in such) is that the images were projected onto the surface by means of a type of psychokinetic ‘thoughtography’. ‘Thoughtography’ as a term emerged from a claim by Ted Serios, who believed that he could imprint an image directly onto photographic film with the power of his mind. Subsequently, would it be too great a leap to believe that Maria was projecting the faces from her own mind?
Over the decades, paranormal investigators have offered theories for the appearance and disappearance of the Bélmez faces, but none have been fully accepted. However, there are reports of an investigative commission arriving at a slightly more concrete reasoning.
The commission determined that the faces were formed by little other than chemical application. Chemicals which could be easily obtained from any drugstore as cleaning fluids.
The commission also reported that ‘we could even determine the size of the brush hairs of the brush used to paint the faces.’
Yet despite all this, there were multitudinous claims of faces appearing before the eyes of witnesses.
Indeed, faces new and old would be rife when Maria was present, and their appearance would abate when she was away. However, despite all this scepticism, Maria may well have had the last word.
On 3rdFebruary 2004, Maria Pereira passed away. Yet the faces continued to appear on her kitchen floor.
In the supernatural, as in life, nothing is ever, ever simple.
The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits. John and Ann Spencer. BCA. 1992.
The Seen and the Unseen: A Study of Presences, Apparitions and Other Paranormal Phenomena. Andrew MacKenzie. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 1987
Historic Mysteries – https://www.historicmysteries.com/belmez-faces/
Unexplained Mysteries – https://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/forum/topic/89033-the-house-of-faces/
Euro Paranormal – https://europaranormal.com/paranormal-powers/images-of-the-dead/