By Phil Plait | July 3, 2009 2:34 pm

The other day while at the gym, the TV was showing CNN. I couldn’t see the screen clearly, but the segment was about unusual clouds in New York… and how some people saw Michael Jackson’s face in them. At the time I thought the segment was serious, but in fact it was Jeanne Moos doing her gag schtick, as you can see on You Tube:

If you’re wondering about the actual MJ shot, here you go:

Jacko in the clouds?

That’s a screen grab from the video. I suppose it looks a bit like Jackson, though, like most examples of faces in the clouds, it looks more like Lou Ferrigno. Or maybe a zombie. Take your pick.

Mammatus clouds on Twitpic

Incidentally, the clouds in question here are called mammatus, and are actually quite common here in Colorado, and I’ve taken a lot of pictures of them, like the one shown here. I remember the first time I ever saw mammatus clouds; I was in Maryland and the remnants of a hurricane had swept through. The clouds were like little bulbs hanging down, and I had never seen anything like it before… so I’m not surprised that people freaked out a little.

But I wonder, just how many people really did think this was a sign of some sort?


Tip o’ the sequined fedora to Skeptical Teacher.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Pareidolia

Comments (45)

  1. ZERO

    I don’t see any faces in those clouds!

  2. It looks more like Sloth from “The Goonies” if you ask me…

  3. gopher65

    My pattern recognition software must be faulty:(. I don’t see any face in that screenie either.

  4. Kind of looks like the kid in “The Exorcist” to me… But then, I saw The Buddha in my throw pillow this morning, so maybe I’m biased today.

  5. GJeff

    It looks more like Michael J when you think of him with his original nose.

  6. wildride

    You must avenge me Kimba — I mean — Simba.

  7. Viewer 3

    I’m going with Frankenstein…’s monster.

  8. Davidlpf

    Darn it, for the kids sake can we just let Michael Jackson die.

  9. TSFrost

    I think I see Santa Claus, or maybe Snarf.

    But the most unbelievable part of this story?:

    “The other day while at the gym”

    C’mon, Phil, this is a room full of skeptics! 😉

  10. Harahu

    Am I the only one that found it funny that a a women with the last name Moos was covering a “story” on mammatus clouds.

  11. There is no face. I just see lots of boobies … :)

  12. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I just see lots of boobies

    Well, at a guess that is why they are named “mammatus”.

    But it makes me wonder why thunder clouds are “cumulonimbus” instead of “papatus”. No, not from the EMissions, but from the generic limp resting form.

  13. greg

    The first thing that came to my mind was Martin Landau’s character Andro in The Outer Limits episode ‘The Man Who Was Never Born’

  14. Michele

    I took some photos of those clouds, too. No Michael Jackson, just lots of coppery cotton balls suspended over NYC. http://bit.ly/DuNKN

  15. 14. greg Says: “The first thing that came to my mind was Martin Landau’s character Andro in The Outer Limits episode ‘The Man Who Was Never Born’ ”

    Or John Merrick (the “Elephant Man”) for another MJ connection.

    In the freeze frame on the video link, I see a really buffed-up Gort. His head/helmet is immediately to the right of the click-arrow, and his body extends diagonally to the right and down. His muscular right arm is folded across his ripped abdomen and he’s got huuuUUUuuge tracts of land, uh, pectorals.

    – Jack

  16. Michelle

    …Looks more like a Street Fighter dude to me.

  17. T.E.L.

    They must have thought it looked like Michael because its pale color.

  18. Not BA Phil

    Ahh…Zombie Lou Ferigno! Run.

  19. A person

    Can we stop calling him Jacko ?

  20. dre

    It’s totally the doctor from the Twilight Zone episode “Eye of the Beholder”. Go watch that one again, you’ll see I’m right.

  21. Stone Age Scientist

    Seems it never rains in Southern Pareidolia.

  22. Stone Age Scientist

    Phil, what in Halakeala’s name were you doing in the gym??!! I thought you’re a nerd??!! :)

  23. MadScientist

    The shopping malls seem to play nothing but Jackson these days. “I’m bad! I’m bad.” Hasn’t anyone done a remix yet:

    “I’m dead! I’m dead – you know it, yeah!”

    Why the obsession with these clouds? Why are some people so titillated by the mere mention of “mammatus”? Do you feel like a giggle … when I mention the name … Biggus …

  24. Sorcererninja

    I kinda see it, but then if I look at it upside-down it looks like a gorilla.

  25. Gary Ansorge

    Yes, and then there’s always Gluteus Maximus, the great one of de SITTER space,,,

    Gee, those clouds, they remind me of,,,MOM??? AH, yes, now I see,,,messages from the beyond,,,

    GAry 7

  26. Merle

    Wait a second, are these things really named “boobie clouds”?

  27. khms


    Wait a second, are these things really named “boobie clouds”?

    Well, given that we’re called “boobie animals”, it doesn’t seem so outrageous …

    But anyway … I hear people talking about seeing all sorts of stuff in the clouds – when I look, all I see is clouds.

    Makes me wonder … might the same thing that lets people see sheep in clouds and bulls in stars, be responsible for them being susceptible to woo?

  28. 21. dre Says:

    It’s totally the doctor from the Twilight Zone episode “Eye of the Beholder”. Go watch that one again, you’ll see I’m right.

    Submitted for your consideration….


  29. Marianne

    I saw Richard Nixon as drawn by political cartoonists everywhere.

  30. Phil, I’m surprised you haven’t posted this bit of atheist paridolia, courtesy of That Mitchell and Webb Look.

  31. MadScientist

    @Merle: Yeah, things get names like that when guys name ’em. Canada for example is proud of its “Les Grandes Tetons” while puritanical USA can only name mountains “Twin Peaks”. Birds have names like “booby”, “tit”, “shag” and there are a few more I can’t recall offhand.

  32. dre

    Thanks, John Paradox! I feel that this new evidence will convince unbelievers of my hypothesis.

  33. Stone Age Scientist

    arensb @ #31, that video is funny.

  34. Personally I think that cloud looks like the old geezer from the current animated movie UP, not Michael Jackson.

  35. Andy

    In the central U.S., these clouds are often (although by no means always) associated with tornadoes, so they actually can be a sign in some cases. As for the “face”, I also see the resemblance to Nixon.

  36. John

    Obviously my ability to detect patterns is defective, I cant see a face, nevermind that of Michael Jackson, even after watching the video that overlays his face over clouds, presumably to show you where to look

  37. CameronSS

    Wow, that is truly a beautiful display of mammatus clouds. We once had a similar bank here in NE Kansas after a thunderstorm, but they weren’t nearly as populous or colorful.

  38. JB of Brisbane

    From “Peanuts” by the late Charles M. Schulz –

    Linus: …and those clouds over there remind me of the Stoning of Stephen – I can see the Apostle Paul standing to one side.

    Charlie Brown: I was going to say I saw a duckie and a horsie… but I changed my mind.

  39. Michael Jackson sighting:


    Just thinking how many months/years Weekly World News will have with MJ.

  40. 40. John Paradox Says: “Michael Jackson sighting:

    It’s obviously the shadow of someone walking in front of a movie light of some kind. There’s a light right there in the open doorway. The “ghost” wasn’t walking across the hallway in front of the door, but is on the back wall. You can see it move across the fireplace and it’s reflected in the floor.

    “Just thinking how many months/years Weekly World News will have with MJ.”

    I made the same sort of prediction when Princess Di was killed. Sad to say, I was correct.

    – Jack

  41. @ John Paradox:

    But … but … I thought the Weekly World News stopped being published a couple of years ago!

  42. D. B. Gaston

    I think that it looks kind of like Hellboy.

  43. vee

    Hmmmmm doesn’t look like mj to me..

  44. MB

    Michael Jackson’s Ghost reflected in a car:


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