Unusual Occurrences in the Desert

A couple of days ago, Marcia and I did an absolutely stellar hike of about seven miles, starting and ending at our temporary home in Sedona. Our favorite hikes tend to be loops (in preference to “out and backs”) with some “there’s a there there” spots along the way. This walk met both of those criteria well.

One of the highlights of the day’s ramble was clambering atop a rock formation called Hole in the Sky atop Brin’s Mesa, affording really wonderful 360° views of the various Red Rock formations north of town. There was a young couple from Louisiana atop the rock when we arrived, and with attention to safe social distancing and masking, we swapped photos with each other, eschewing the usual selfie approach. Here we are atop Hole in the Sky:

After exchanging thanks and pleasantries, I walked to the other side of the rock and snapped a southward-facing vista. It looked like this:

I shared that photo on a web forum where I’m active, and as I saw it on a bigger (e.g. non-phone) screen for the first time, my eye was immediately drawn to what appeared to be a figure sitting on a log just below the rock, in the sort of scalloped curve in the yellow stone that shapes the lower left quadrant. Dammit! Did someone photo bomb my scene? Grrr! I had neither seen nor heard anybody down there, so it seemed a sneaky surprise. I blew the photo up a bit and looked closer:

Hmmm. Is that a black-clad goth grrrl sitting on a rock with legs crossed, leaning with elbows on knees while looking back up at me? That seems odd on such a hot day. Or did I capture some hidden person or desert spirit or (burnt) wood nymph enjoying a sunny day instead? Another zoom:

Yeesh. Now it’s sort of starting to take on monstrous proportions. Were scary things moving in the desert in advance of Hallowe’en and its second blue moon of the month? Did I need to investigate paranormal activity hereabouts? By all popular accounts, there’s a lot of it.

After I posted that first blow-up image on the web forum, other folks pointed out some additional oddities in the scene to the left of the Ghostly Goth, highlighted in orange below: a couple of smiling heads at top left, a ballcap-wearing ghost at center, a strange cat-bird hybrid at bottom left:

I’m sure if we kept searching, we’d find plenty more haints and boogers and ghouls and horrors in that clearly haunted little dell tucked in below the big rock. Or, conversely, we’d find more fine examples of pareidolia, defined as “the tendency for incorrect perception of a stimulus as an object, pattern or meaning known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds, seeing faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns, or hearing hidden messages in music.”

Did we see something ghoulish in the desert on Thursday, or did we see a jumble of wildfire-burnt logs and rocks stacked up randomly per common natural causes? One of those explanations is fun and freaky, especially given the season. One is not so much so. You be the judge. We’re heading out into the rocks again today, so I’ll update you if Ghostly Goth Grrrl and her Parade of Pareidolic Phantasms turn up again . . .

(P.S. Count yourself a good music nerd if you know from whence I cribbed the title of this post).

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