Humor Pareidolia Skepticism/critical thinking

Lamest pareidolia ever? Satan appears on a bathroom tile in Budapest

It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a connoisseur of pareidolia.

The various shapes and contortions the human mind can impose on clouds, stains, pancakes, trees, toast, Lava lamps, toilet seats, and even medical imaging tests never ceases to amaze me. We are pattern-seeking creatures, and our brains will go to great lengths to impose familiar patterns onto objects. Sometimes, however, I have to call ’em as I see ’em, and this bit of pareidolia is just lame: Satan on a bathroom tile:

A family abandoned their bathroom fearing it had been possessed by the devil after an image of Satan appeared overnight – in a tile.

Laszlo Csrefko spent a fortune renovating the room at the family home in Bekasmegyer, Budapest, with a new bath, shower and tiles.

But after taking her first shower, horrified wife Andrea, 47, fled from the bathroom when she spotted the horned head of the devil in one of the tiles.

“I was naked coming out of the shower and I could suddenly see his eyes staring into me. I just screamed and ran,” she said.

Husband Laszlo, 52, explained: “We can’t clean it off and it wasn’t there when we put the tiles up. It just appeared overnight and nothing can move it.

Odd. If I really thought it was Satan, I’d either remove the tile and replace it with a fresh one, or I’d break out my Led Zeppelin albums.

Looking at the the tile, I am unimpressed. Sure, it looks like a face, but…Satan? I’m also amazed at how tiny it was. How on earth did Andrea see it? It occupies one small corner of a tile. Beware…mini-Satan! Who knew Satan had such awesome wavy hair and such a long nose?


Personally, I think it looks more like Beethoven, which would be even more amazing than Satan. Think of the fantastic music that could permeate the bathroom while i’m sitting on the can!


All hail, Beethoven!


At least, until Laszlo Csrefko gets an exorcist to cleanse his bathroom of evil spirits.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

55 replies on “Lamest pareidolia ever? Satan appears on a bathroom tile in Budapest”

Looks Ferengi to me, so I’d be running screaming from my bathroom if I’d found one of those too.

I see Nosferatu. Or perhaps an aged Spock. Either way, not someone I want to watch while I poop.

This gives a whole new meaning to “don’t cross the streams, Ray!”
and :
Are you sure that’s not this Blog’s mascot ?

Anecdotal story time! When I was five, my parents bought a house from people with…interesting decorating taste. The downstairs half-bath had an advocado green toilet with a rather surprised-looking turtle printed on the seat, and leopard-print wall paper. I saw faces all over that wallpaper that I would talk to when I used the john, and it never bothered me one bit. The turtle seat was covered within a month and eventually replaced.

I find pareidolia so ridiculously entertaining, maybe the terrible decorating made me self-aware about it at an early age.

Satan? Oh the sheer ignorance. Its clearly a house elf. Leave an offering of beer and all will be well.

~I’m also amazed at how tiny it was. How on earth did Andrea see it? It occupies one small corner of a tile. Beware…mini-Satan!

The devil is in the detail.

All the Star Trek references are funny – I was thinking Odo from DS9 with the sunken eyes and smooth nose.

It looks more like one of El Greco’s saints to me. Nice tile work-I’m looking for just that color for my shower.

Nothing there tells me that the face wasn’t there already, part of the tile pattern, as opposed to bleached onto the surface.

Additionally, from the picture, there’s clearly a limited number of tile patterns. As an example, the blue tile to the upper right is turned 180 degrees from the one with the face. The tiles aren’t all exactly the same, but there are other repeated squiggles clear in the picture.

So, there’s at least a few more of the faces there, as well as anywhere someone installed the same manufactured tiles. Only one was oriented in such a way that someone eventually recognized a face.

Go go OCD pattern recognition!

I think it’s interesting to imagine the back story that must be going on in the heads of people who see pareidolia, the chain of reasoning which would explain the sort of circumstances and events which lead to faces being placed just so.

Okay, the world is magic. In what way? Is there a hidden realm where little spirit people look out and get stuck? Do ghosts put signs up as warnings? How do they go about doing that? How do they know that you’ll come up with the right meaning — or that you’ll even see such a thing? What makes them choose one spot over another? I’d be curious about how people who see Satan in their bathroom tile or the Madonna in a tree think about the details involved — or, if they’re not thinking about the details, what will they try to come up with if they do suddenly try to come up with a plausible-sounding narrative? How elaborate can they get?

I bet it would sound like New Age pseudoscience babble. That might be why they probably avoid articulating or even internally visualizing any explicit explanation.


Usually “It’s a miracle” suffices. You know, “God works in mysterious ways” and all. A lot of people think that explaining the divine lessens its divinity, and are happier because, as Randi says, they have a miracle in their hands.

“Do ghosts put signs up as warnings?” Yes, but usually people only “know” this after the fact.

The Beethoven/Satan question is an important one. If it’s Beethoven and you put on Led Zeppelin he might be…unamused. And take whatever revenge a dead composer on the bathroom wall can take. OTOH, it would be important to find out if Satan liked Beethoven or not before playing any Beethoven as a tribute to Sathoven.

My first though was also “Old Spock”

I wonder how much this phenomenon depends on the state of mind of the observer. I think we can all recognize “faces” in random noise images like this (especially when someone points it out to you), but I tend to see other things too in similar random visual data. I found a full hip-shaking Elvis in a mother of pearl guitar once, and the occasional topless woman in shadows on popcorn ceilings and such. I’ve never seen something and thought “It’s Jesus!”, just silly things from my own brain, so I’ve never stopped to take a photo or alert the media… maybe that’s why the majority of reported cases are religious in nature; it seems more credible when it might be a sign from God, as opposed to me imagining boobs, a 53 Chevy, or the Millennium Falcon.

It’s not an image of Mr “Satan” Devil, it is Satan!

He was visiting one of the sweatshops in Hades—you know the kind of place, where the inmates make stuff all day (it’s never night) in horrible conditions without any breaks—and there was an “accident”. This particular sweatshop makes ceramic tiles, and after a confused incident involved a enraged hedgehog, a couple of the inmates (contrary to rumour, they weren’t all bishops, at least one was a cardinal), and a jar of mouldy peanut butter, Satan found itself inside one of the kilns where the door mysteriously wouldn’t open.

Nobody, of course, gave a damn—Hades is like a large corporation—so nobody bothered to inform anyone or shutdown the kiln or search the baked tiles for Satan. How the door was eventually opened I’ve not heard (they don’t wait for the kiln to cool down when its opened; I understand that’s one of the more popular jobs as the hot kiln is much cooler than the sweatshop). Instead, as per usual routine, that allotment of tiles was sent down to Earth and sold. The Csrefko household obviously got at least one of the tiles containing Satan. (They probably got it retail for Euros, not wholesale for souls. (I have no idea what the soul:Euro exchange rate is.))

I imagine eventually a lawyer (this is Hades, lawyers are almost as common there as bishops, cardinals, nuns, et al.) will be making contactissuing threats for the return of Satan. Insurance reasons, probably.

It’s interesting that they think Satan has nothing better to do than watch two old people take a shower.

The part I find amazing is their insistence that this face wasn’t there when they installed the tiles. RIGHT, because you carefully looked at this one small section of this tile while you were installing…

These poor frightened superstitious people. Their church should foot the bill for a new tile, then be forced to pay for some deprogramming counseling.

First thing I saw was a hawk man. Then I read the “Satan” part and went, “Oh, yeah. I guess so.” What’s more disconcerting, however, is the bulbous-eyed, noseless, slit-mouthed alien over the guys’ right shoulder.

Story time! My parents bought a house where the previous owners were very big fans of harvest gold and everything sparkly. The popcorn ceiling? Glittered. The toilet and sink in my bathroom? Glittered. But the best was the metallic swirly wallpaper in the bathroom. It was full faces, most of whom were friendly. That is, until you got sick. Then the mirrored surface of the wallpaper tended to make it look like the pattern was moving. No fun with a queasy stomach.

I see an uncanny resemblance to Woodrue from the Swamp Thing comic.
Written by Alan Moore, so tnere’s still a nice pagan association.


Have any of the Jesus and Mo cartoons included Moses?

From, the descriptive material, I think Mo is that other guy that it is sacrilegious to draw a picture of.

To say that this or that looks like Satan, you must first have met him in person!

I, your satanic prince of eeeeeeeevilllle, lord of all darkness, purveyor of pestilence and mayhem, am so awe-inspiringly terrifying that I have chosen to manifest my my blue-tinged, inequity-bound self in a place certain to send shivers down the spine of the helpless populace of earth, the Tiny Corner Of A Hungarian Shower Stall Tile!!!! (cue thunderclap and orchestral crescendo in minor key followed by maniacal laughter). No response from above.

Small figure approaches . . .

(Opens envelope handed to him on a smoking platter by one-eyed spriggin)

What? Nobody . . . noticed except atheists? And they’re laughing? What do you mean by “well, it is pretty funny sir” Who said that?! WHO SAID THAT?!?!? (more thunderclaps, a scattering of panicky minions and then crickets) . . . I thought so.

I can never have anything nice . . .

On my bathroom wall, there is an assembly of four tiles showing a pattern approximately resembling the southern 3/4 of Australia. What kind of sign is that?

Andy Jackson. Just like that portrait you have in your wallet, if you’re so lucky.

It’s the Pope. The Brits are nailing him so hard for pedophilia that he has shifted to watching old ladies in the shower.

I’m with the Andrew Jackson camp here.

Also, I’m seeing a little bit of Rhesus monkey, too. Hmmmmm.

Let me fix that for you:

Odd. If I really thought it was Satan, I’d either remove the tile and replace it with a fresh one, or I’d break out my Led Zeppelin Slayer albums.

You’re welcome.

It looks fake to me, something that tiny. It might even be a hoax.
If it’s true then the house is haunted or the bathroom is.

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