Flushed with pareidolia

By Phil Plait | July 29, 2010 12:00 pm

Pareidolia is the psychology term for seeing faces in random patterns. This usually gets air time due to some vaguely Christlike shape in a stain or something, but not every instance has to be religiously motivated. I don’t want to ignore those secular ones, because, after all, I hate to let anything go to waste.



This picture, taken by Mitchell Whitney, was snapped right after an, um, incident that required some vigorous plunging. The only conclusion is that the toilet itself was relieved when it was all over as well.

I have a series of puns all trying to push their way out of my brain, but I’ll let them go because it’s been an exhausting week. I’m pooped.

Tip o’ the plumber’s helper to Dan Durda.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Humor, Pareidolia, Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: toilet

Comments (52)

  1. Tom K.

    Picasso’s ‚ÄúScream”. Life is such a canvas anywhere you “go”.

  2. Digitalastro

    What a moving sight!

  3. Boomer

    that would be Munch

  4. And now we know why he was screaming.

    Open wide and say “ewww”.

    Unfortunately, this thread has the potential to degrade even further into bathroom humor. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

  5. MoonShark

    Glad to see you’re still rooting out cases of pareidolia!

  6. Technogeek

    I think this is what inspired 2 Girls 1 Cup.

  7. Awww… but he looks so happy. I don’t see a screaming face here. I see a very jolly fat man.

  8. DrFlimmer

    Tom K. somehow beat me: I was also thinking of the “Scream” mask, which is, btw, also very appropriate in this context! ūüėČ

  9. DrFlimmer:

    I was also thinking of the ‚ÄúScream‚ÄĚ mask

    No, it’s Moses, from South Park.


  10. critter42

    should I hang my head that the first thing I saw was not a face at all but instead one of the original shock websites, goatse? So does that make it Goatsedolia?

  11. Martin

    This post would not be approved by 1960s censors.

  12. FWIW, the marks are certainly from the rubber part of the plunger, and not anything icky.

  13. @Phil


    Don’t you mean “Beholed”?

    Oh, and Phil. Seriously? The Guild’s new video, “Game On“, only gets a tweet and no blog post love?

  14. RAF

    The BA said: Pareidolia is the psychology term for seeing faces in random patterns.

    I thought pareidolia was seeing patterns or “significance” (faces included) in randomness…not just “seeing faces”.

  15. stompsfrogs

    I hope one of those puns was “pareiBOWLia!”

  16. TDL

    As this site is all about facts and eliminating misinformation, I must point out that “The Scream” was painted by Edvard Munch, not Picasso.

  17. Tony

    Have followers started lining up yet to pray to the porcelain god?

  18. Adrian Lopez


  19. Chris

    It’s the Porcelain God I pray to when I’m sick!!

  20. Richard Drumm The Abtronomy Bum

    Looks like a yawnin, sleepy dude to me!
    “I’m pooped!” Good one!

  21. MoonShark

    Hey, don’t hurl that blasphemy toward my white idol. His room is sacred. It’s not somewhere you go to just dump your feelings!

  22. KiltBear

    A complete website dedicated to this phenomena with crowd sourced content:

  23. The BA himself:

    FWIW, the marks are certainly from the rubber part of the plunger, and not anything icky.

    Sure, ruin a good line of humor with these so-called “facts”. You’re an astronomer. What do you know about plumbing?

    Hey, a search for “scatological astronomy” actually beings up numerous hits (not really that surprising), and several of your posts appear on Google’s first page of that search, if you leave off quotes.

  24. Tooner

    Buncha highbrows. It’s obviously the Home Alone kid.

  25. Tribeca Mike

    I’ve a hunch Munch brunched on a Crunch before lunch.

  26. BJN

    The clown’s been eating pencils again.

    Seriously, those are some scary skidmarks.

  27. jcm

    Open wide and flush.

  28. Tahoe

    Oh, this is definitely one that should be added to the “Faces in Places” blog! =D

  29. It’s /obviously/ the work of Jesus. Duh.

    Isn’t Jesus the name of your plumber?

  30. MadScientist

    Oh, so *that’s* what inspired Edvard Munch’s “The Scream”. It would also explain the water damage on the version displayed in the Munch Museet.

  31. Brian Too

    It’s Ralph! As in, “I’m going to talk to Ralph on the big white phone!”

  32. Grand Lunar

    Proves that pareidolia is a bunch of crap!


  33. Charlie in Dayton

    …hmmm…I may have dined at the establishment that was the cause of this particular image…similar effects, dontcha know…

  34. Gary Ansorge

    All hail the porcelain throne.

    Been there. Done that.

    2. Tom K.

    Personally, I’ve liked Van Goges Starry Night. That dude had to be tripping hard. If I had 1/10th his ability, there would be some really good paintings from my garage. So many faces to paint. So little talent to accomplish that. Thank the porcelain gods for pareidolia.

    Gary 7

  35. alfaniner

    If you turn it upside-down, it’s a headless chicken.

  36. mariana

    A less icky but still cool pareidolia (or paradolia as he calls it) here…

    Reminds me of the mask in V for Vendetta.

  37. Annie M

    Ah, so this time I can’t say Holy Crap?

  38. Bob_In_Wales

    Hey guys, show some respect. That’s my God you’re talking about. Many a time I’ve had my head in the bowl going “Oh my God” – and usually promising not to do something again!

  39. Clive DuPort

    I wonder if he’s just looking up an old friend?

  40. ggremlin

    Reminds me of an old song “On the way down” by Danny Draino. What a waste.

  41. Bob Marcus

    I’m surprised all the above are not punctuated with COLONS and Semi-COLONS; if you’d like I’ll di-rectum!

  42. I found a good example (I think so anyway) of Pareidolia on our bathroom floor, got a picture before the missus mopped it off


    I know what I think it looks like, but I will leave it to you to decide for yourselves. I’d hate to influence people.

  43. A-Tom-IC

    #10 Ken B: “No, it‚Äôs Moses, from South Park”. Who is, of course, the MCP from Tron.

  44. Jackie

    This really needs to be submitted to “Happy Chair Is Happy–Faces in Inanimate Objects.”


  45. That’s my son for you. He’s just as odd as his old man.

  46. Imker

    I guess this may be taught in public school. Just like creationism…

  47. fernando

    jesus is everywhere

  48. Mark B

    I imagine you have to have seen this, but just in case:


    You can make your own pareidolia on toast.


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