July 31, 2007

Christ as Grease Spot

Jesus Smudged on Garage Floor

Forest, VA - Call it divine intervention, a sign from above, on the floor. A family in Forest says they've discovered something heavenly just lying around in their garage...

A garage is usually the place where bugs roam and husbands go to play, but all that has changed for Serio family.

Deb Serio, Found Jesus - "We had blacktopped our driveway and set the can down and we were cleaning out and moved the can and there he was."

Kelly and Natalie Serio, Daughters - "It's Jesus!"

You heard right, that smudge of blacktop, Deb Serio believes, looks like Jesus. Take a good look -- you be the judge. [Note: no image is provided with the story and the video link doesn't work; the image shown here is from the Serios' eBay auction.]

Deb Serio - "People will look at you with that crooked face and ya know what's wrong with this girl, I don't see Jesus, I see a smudge."...

Natalie, 7 Years Old - "I always thought he was tellin' us -- 'stay good'."...

Deb Serio - "Yeah, I used to wave at him on my way to work. I said 'I know, I'll be good'."...

The Serio's have been staring at Jesus for about a year. Now they've decided to share him by selling the Messiah on eBay.

Deb Serio - "I kept thinking of that grilled cheese sandwich, remember the grilled cheese sandwich that sold for like $30,000 and I thought, well ya know, someone valued that, someone got something out of that, so maybe someone will get something out of this."...

I find it rather interesting that in one breath the proud owner of the alleged Jesus smudge asserts that the image appeared "maybe for a purpose" and that the family won't step on it, but they're willing to tear up the floor of their garage and part with the holy image if they can get at least enough money for it; the starting bid for the auction on eBay is $100, but Serio specifies that the final price must be enough to cover the cost of removing the section of floor.

Of course, Ms. Serio predicts correctly that most people will only see a smudge and not a face. This instance of divinely-inspired pareidolia is certainly a stretch. What's more telling, I think, is the purpose that Serio and her daughter posit for the image's appearance; it's a very personal admonition to both of them to "be good," and both mother and daughter use very similar language to describe this estimation. We most certainly have an instance here of God-as-parent, and I don't think even the Serios would discount the probability that all they're really doing here is basing their notion on childhood experience of an authoritarian daddy who always seems to know what they're doing.

The description from the eBay auction is interesting as well; it asserts simply the following:
This image of Jesus appeared on our garage floor here in Forest, VA.
Unlike the article, the auction doesn't mention the circumstances under which the "image" appeared; I suppose that in attempting to make a sale, Ms. Serio is aware that telling prospective buyers that the thing is actually a stain left by the bottom of a blacktop sealant can doesn't sound nearly as mysterious and divine, hence it makes for poor marketing. Ironically, in the auction listing the item is described as an "uncanny icon." It was produced by a can after all. Perhaps this is a bit of dissonance leaking through; any number of adjectives could have been chosen here. Perhaps, too, it's the same sort of dissonance that caused her to say that people will look at her with "crooked" looks on their faces!

One line in the auction listing struck me as a bit odd:
Please note, this is not a usual listing of mine. I sell eggs and assorted stuff.
Eggs and assorted stuff? Sure enough, Serio appears to be in the business of selling pheasant eggs. She also sells "assorted stuff" such as empty shotgun shell boxes. I assume that the Serios derive some portion of their income from breeding pheasants to hunting lodges and the like. Who knows... maybe these are some of the very birds that Dick Cheney was hunting when he accidentally shot his friend in the face a few months ago!

In any case, I think I'll keep an eye on the auction and see who, if anyone, buys the piece of stained concrete that's being sold like the infamous $30,000 Jesus-on-a-sandwich image. One thing that the internet has done for the world is make it easier for kooks to flock together and scammers to find their marks. I'm not sure which of these categories, if either, Serio would fall into... though I lean toward the latter, since she is willing to sell the stain after giving it a big build-up. I suspect that Serio doesn't honestly believe that the stain is a divine manifestation, but the prospect of making thirty grand off some sucker is enough to get her to say that she does. I don't know that, and have no way of being sure about it... but this seems like a con to me.

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