The Great Stone Face
Clouds often take the shapes of animals and human faces. The same is true of rock formations, such as the Great Stone Face in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, made famous by Hawthorne's tale. Draw a wiggly vertical line. It's easy to find spots where you can add a few more lines to make the profile of a face. On the left and right sides of the maple leaf on the Canadian flag you'll see the faces of two men (liberal and conservative?) arguing with each other. A few decades ago the Canadian dollar bill had to be re-engraved because the face of a demon accidentally turned up in the Queen's hair just behind her left ear.
This tendency of chaotic shapes to form patterns vaguely resembling familiar things is responsible for one of the most absurd books ever written. about advertising: Subliminal Seduction, by journalist Wilson Bryan Key ( Prentice-Hall, 1973). The Signet paperback had on its cover a photograph of an ice-filled cocktail with the caption "Are you sexually aroused by this picture?" It was the author's contention that hundreds of advertising photographs are carefully retouched to "embed" concealed pictures designed to shock your unconscious and thereby help you remember the product. The hidden pictures include words ranging from sex to the most taboo of four-letter words, but there are also phallic symbols and all sorts of other eroticisms. In the ice-cube in an ad for Sprite, the author professed to see a nude woman cohabiting with a shaggy dog. It's hard to imagine anyone taking this nonsense seriously, especially since the author's many references to "recent studies" never disclosed where they took place or who the experimenters were. More amazing still, the Canadian Catholic philosopher Marshall McLuhan wrote the book's laudatory introduction. Key has gone on to write two even more bizarre books about the sneaky ways modern advertising is subliminally seducing us.
More recently, UFO enthusiasts have been playing the hidden-picture game with the moon and Mars. They pore over thousands of photographs of cratered surfaces until--aha!--they find something suggesting the presence of alien creatures. An early anticipation of this pastime occurred in 1953,