The Bélmez Faces or the Faces of Bélmez is an alleged paranormal phenomenon in a private house in Spain which started in 1971 when residents claimed images of faces appeared on the concrete floor of the house.
The objective of research is to seek answers to unanswered questions; to explain the inexplicable. Therefore, it is perplexing; distressing rather for a researcher to return empty-handed from a venture of his. I, for one, have had a near-perfect research career, spanning over forty years. However, one particular anomaly comes to mind–the curious faces of Belmez.
Belmez de la Moraleda is a quiet town, nestled between the Andalusian mountains. Nothing really happens there, a rather quaint place. Houses with pearly white walls, stone-paved roads, and people who take great pains to keep this community alive. It has been over thirty years since I first visited the town. In the early 1970s, the town was shaken to its core. The appearance of faces in the walls of a house— and its subsequent investigation by me— form the remainder of this story. Now, thirty-four years later, new faces have appeared.
When my peers presented me with an opportunity to go to Belmez, I seized it. I was sceptical of the phenomenon. My objective was to disprove all claims of paranormal activity. Perhaps this objective itself was flawed.
The Pereira house possessed this inexplicable beauty. It was the same as all other houses on the street, yet somehow different. The house never had fewer than ten people inside. Inside, it was meticulously put together. One could see the effort that went into the upkeep of the house. I was in the kitchen when it caught my eye. El Cara, or the face. It was a vague image of the face of a moustachioed man, stoic but resolute in expression. I was intrigued.
The research methodology was clear. Small pieces of the walls would be subjected to granulometric tests. We would extract a segment of the walls, and analyse the granules to find variations in materials based on granular sizes. We were making pieces to complete the puzzle.
The family that inhabited the house, however, were simple people. The head of the family was Juan Pereira, a very amicable man. Miguel Pereira, Juan and Maria Pereira’s son, was an obedient son, and a personable young man. Maria Pereira, the lady of the house, was a matronly woman, who co-operated with me in my every endeavour to uncover the truth.
The appearance of the faces was sudden. It was a pleasant August morning when the whole town was steeped in tranquillity. A scream pierced this calm. Maria called out Juan’s name. “There are faces in the walls!” said she. Juan ran to Maria to console her. The couple, frightened, started praying, hoping for the ghastly image to disappear, but to no avail. Meanwhile, a crowd had gathered. Curious townsfolk inquiring about the scream surrounded the small door to the house. A few of them even managed to see their faces.
I decided to take accommodation in the Pereira house. I believe it is always better for a researcher to be in close proximity to the object of his research. Maria was kind enough to provide me with a spare room in her house.
Maria Gomez Camara, the woman who saw it all was the first thought that came to mind when I met the family. My meeting with the family had taken place in the most mellow manner. Maria, for starters, had approached me with the biggest smile, placing forth her warm hands, describing the delicacies she had to offer me, saying “Welcome sir. I hope the travel was not much of a burden to you, because we are in fact delighted to meet you. I hope you are in much of an empty stomach for I have prepared Crema Catalana for you, sir.”
I, then, met Juan Pereira and their son, Miguel, who were both warm and receiving.
I felt free to go about their place— the scene occurrence. There was something about the Belmez House which gravely bothered me. But how the silk sheets were placed gracefully on the dining to impress outside guests, and how the floors were so thoroughly polished that lavender smelled all over the place. The China, although few, were organized in the manner of colour rather shape, and how the kitchen, as small as it was, scented of caramel and leftover pork. A small, middle going family.
We sat down to the smell of caramel surrounding us, and then Maria began to state the occurrences of the day.
“Sir, it was August 1971. I fool none. I was on and about with my day when I saw the face.” She once stopped. “Sorry, I saw the face and screamed. When Miguel ran to me, Juan following, they saw it too. We were all in shock but had nothing to say. Later that day, we tried to destroy the face with a mighty pickaxe that lay about in the back. I only thought of not wanting the spirits in my household as I did so.” She instantly stood up to bring about tea and biscuits.
“Yes, and after all that, we put down new washed concrete. To our dismay, the face came back”, said Juan. “And how so, it was reported at sudden once to the Mayor, and we were ordered not to take out the faces. We did as told.”
La Pava was the name of the first face. The faces caused massive hysteria back then. Hoax, or not, the “La Casa de las Caras”, also known as “The House of the Faces”, as people call it, became much of a mammoth phenomenon. Even so, after the face was unveiled, the family, as I recall, had dutifully approached the City Council. Acquiring proper requests, they had received permission to excavate the ground underneath the floor.
Years of research have gone into the cause of these faces. The fact that there has never been anything conclusive is the only stain on my career. Research started with using the paint used as a basis. The components of paint, namely lead, was considered to because of pigmentation. An old friend who had contacted me about the incident. Ramos Parera was the president of the Spanish Society of Parapsychology. He told me that even with infrared photography, it was seen that the faces were added with slighted pigmentation and even the paintbrush bristles could be perceived.
However, in 1990, an analysis was carried out by the Instituto de Cerámica y Vidrio or ICV (Institute of Ceramics and Glass). Two samples from two of faces, weighing 30 and 60 milligrams respectively, were taken. They were subjected to various tests such as granulometric, mineralogical and chemical tests. No traces of paint were found in any of the samples.
It is this disparity that has always left me frustrated.
It did not come as a surprise to me when the Pereiras got their few minutes of limelight. Within no time, the hysteria resulted in a fanfare. People could not wait to see these mysterious faces. There were claims that the faces were a show— a ploy for the financial gain of sorts. These claims helped to deepen a divide already forming in the mind of the people around the Pereiras— do we believe them or not?
Do you know what else grows parallel with such an occurrence? Irrational beliefs. The more fanfare around the faces, the greater support the psychic aspect of it got. Maria earned the name of a psychic who created these faces. Maybe it is my disbelief in these beliefs, but when I think of Maria, Maria I knew during my stay…I just don’t see it.
Ultimately, it was concluded that the cause of these faces could be one of three things— products that affect the structure of cement, products that keep the cement intact, which would otherwise lose structure when exposed to light or chemical reagents, and pigments used in resins.
There have always been moments in my life when I felt like going back and solving this case. There have been times when the smell of paint or Spanish on the street take me back to the Belmez House. I think about how I might have done things differently or involved different people. As I said, this is the only stain of my career.
I used to revisit the faces, yes, a number of times. Over the years, the number has gone down. I do not know why. Insult no longer goes well with me, and I considered this case, often, an insult to my abilities. Most times, I think, however, it is because I have made peace with the fact that it isn’t in anyone’s capabilities why on that fine day in August, the moustachioed man decided to pay the Pereiras a visit.
— Written by Varsha Mariam and Avaneesh Jai Damaraju for MTTN
— Edited by Aarohi Sarma for MTTN
—Featured artwork by Shraddha Jathan for MTTN