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James Randi Educational Foundation

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

Introduction | "R" Reading | Curse of the Pharaoh | End-of-the-World Prophecies

Index | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

weeping statues From time to time, reports of weeping or bleeding religious statues, icons, or paintings are featured in the media. There is no specific season for this phenomenon, but Christmas and Easter are slightly favored.
      The Christmas season of 1986 brought a media blitz of articles and interviews about another variety of the miracle, this one of a Virgin Mary painting in Chicago that was said by church authorities to exude “a very thin, oily sweet substance very similar to the [liquid] we use to baptize children or unction for the sick.” These authorities firmly declined to have the “tears” examined by chemists, saying that

      to further analyze [this phenomenon] would be almost blasphemy. The Archdiocese thinks [investigators] should not subject [the substance] to a scientific analysis, which is not a very religious procedure.

      The previous year, a similarly attractive myth had collapsed when another religious figure, in Montreal, Canada——this time a combination weeping/bleeding statue——turned out to have been smeared with a quite mundane mixture of the owner's own blood and Kmart shaving lotion. The resulting fuss was no surprise to experienced observers of these matters. Media exposure of the hoax brought a barrage of hate mail to the local bishop. The letter writers felt that in spite of the evidence——a direct confession from the hoaxer——the bishop still should have declared the event a genuine miracle.
      Ordinary atmospheric condensation, encouraged by the increased number of candles offered at the site, as well as the exhalation of the large crowds, can often result in “tears” on a plaster figure. And it is obvious that any person armed with a concealed syringe or other similar device can surreptitiously project the required liquid onto the figure. Since proper examination of the site and of the substances involved are forbidden and discouraged, there is little to be gained merely by theorizing on the modus operandi that might have been used. Certainly, no assumption of a miracle would be parsimonious.

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