Couple finds angel in tree rings

You look long and hard, squint your eyes to the point of straining them, and finally, as your eyeballs cry for mercy, the giant blotch starts looking like an angel. No, this isn’t a Rorschach inkblot test, although in retrospect, it might as well be. Instead, this is a couple in Georgetown, Illinois who claim to have cut down a tree with an angel face in it.

Sherri and Jerry Conklin, whose home was threatened by an old oak tree, cut down the soft maple to avoid further property damage. When they were finished, they discovered that one of the wood grains displayed the image of an angel. Their local newspaper, suffering from a lack of any pertinent news, thought it would be a good idea to feature a credulous couple who believe the image of the cherub appeared only after the tree had been cut down.

Now, I don’t want to be a buzzkill, but when I looked at the image, I thought I recognized one of the helmets from the Lord of the Rings movie (the fancy elven ones). Of course, Mrs. Conklin and I share have one thing in common; we are both individuals with active imaginations who see patterns in a seemingly innocuous blotch of stained wood; in fact, most normal human beings do. It’s called pareidolia, which is a physiological phenomenon whereby a vague visual stimulus triggers the brain to interpret a particular pattern or recognizable image.

This would all be fairly jovial and innocent if we could all laugh a little, and remember that the significance of such a find is no more impressive than looking up at the sky and seeing a cloud that looks like a teddy bear. The faithful droves, however, regard these kinds of finds as proof positive that their particular deity exists, and rationality, free inquiry, and objectivity fly out the window. It is in these instances we should remind ourselves there is always a powerful need to rationalize our beliefs, no matter how illogical they might be. By claiming to see angelic messages in tree trunks, grilled cheese sandwiches, and plate glass windows, we assign a pattern to nature that does not exist, and further our own ignorance. We should instead come to realize that it isn’t the outside world who’s trying to send us a message, but the internal one. Speaking of which, maybe I’ll pop in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy.

Comments (6)

  • avatar


    People aren’t lining up to worship chunks of wood now are they??

    How very interesting, this concept of “pareidolia”….I’d like to hear more about that, especially since every once in awhile religious statues “cry” or “bleed” or other such things and people interpret this as some sort of message from Beyond. Quite the media sensation.

    I wrote down this quote awhile back and can’t recall where it comes from but it seems relevant here:

    “Since the creation of the world His (God’s) invisible attributes–His external power and divine nature–have clearly been seen, because they are understood through what has been made”.

    The quote has troubled me for some a riddle. As I struggle to understand what this actually means, by breaking it down, I come to understand that humans seem to need to “make sense” of the world and “create order”…it is in our cognitive framework . Like our attempt to make patterns out of images and represent ideas with symbols. Perhaps, religion attempts to fill in the dots and to manage any dissonance or emotional anxiety for us. It has “the answers”. It has “good news” to save us.
    Since God is believed to have “invisible attributes”, anybody can interpret anything as “God” or a message from God, and they can try to convince others to “see” it too. This is where charismatic personalities step in throughout human history. And that is the strength of religion…it’s ability to gain members that conceptualize the same ideas over time and perpetuate the institution! Some may call it a very good marketing campaign.
    What Richard Dawkins said about the existence of God rings true for me personally:
    Religious belief is connected to our human tendency to believe what authority figures tell us as children and it provides feelings of safety and security. But now that I’m an adult, religion is “wishful thinking” and doesn’t play a role in my life. I am free from religion and consider being “Godless” a good thing! Even if it means a solitary life.

    But I’m getting the impression that there is the beginnings of a supportive social structure outside the religious community. It is within the scientific, intellectual, scholarly arena. And I am grateful for your efforts to shed light on “the good atheists”…the secular humanists who have broken free from the confines of the religious mindset.

  • avatar

    Intergalactic Hussy

    Well, if you’re looking hard enough, that could be anything you want it to be… Rorschach inkblot test indeed!

    I couldn’t even make out an angel or fairy (same thing except fairies are cooler- they hold no pretension about their existence… lol) from that image. How do they do it? 😛 But if I look closely, I can see other possible image silhouettes. Maybe a dog with floppy ears or a little girl? Or perhaps, wood!

  • avatar


    I’m sure if God was planning on manifesting himself, it would be in more impressive manners than outlines of angels in chunks of wood. Religious people are always saying they don’t need any proof to believe and then jump on stuff like this to try and prove their points. I don’t get it.

  • avatar

    Lynn's Daughter

    This stuff drives me crazy. I posted something about a mayor (or was is Jesus?) face in another tree not long ago.
    By the way, you’ve been tagged. Do with it what you will.

  • avatar


    They’ll probably make a bundle selling it on eBay to some nutty Christian.

  • avatar


    Oh, i see the angel, i also see a ChainChomp (from Mario Brothers). If God exists, he should really stop half-assing his manifestations. Besides, why is it that it’s only believers that see them, why does God need to prove himself to them, anyway?

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