It was 11 years ago, in the spring of ’87, when Luther and Arlene Gardner’s freezer first got famous. It all happened when a bare light bulb on the Gardners’ front porch created a shadowy silhouette of Jesus Himself on the appliance’s metal jacket. For a while, the couple put the freezer on public display. People drove into Tennessee from all over the South and Midwest just to take a look at it. At least one ailing person claims to have been healed by the freezer.
Eventually, the Gardners got tired of all the company at their Estill Springs home, so they took their freezer inside. The lighting was different, and Jesus’ face disappeared. Seven years ago, when they were sure all the hubbub had died down, they put the freezer back on the porch. Jesus’ silhouette came back, just like it was before. These days, the Gardners don’t want any gawkers, but they’re quietly reminding people of their major-appliance miracle, so that preachers can get the word out before the millennium.
Some years back, when I was still playing music, my drummer’s mother had a full-out spiritual awakening after she saw Jesus in a can of Crisco. She just popped off the top of the can, and there He was. Lard Jesus. Again, in silhouette.
Now, I’m not out to make fun of anybody’s faith, but let me just say this: There’s a pattern here, and it involves shadowplay. If these sightings had involved glowing, full-color 3-D images, in rooms with the lights turned off, that would have gotten my respectful attention.
But these shadow images aren’t exactly making me listen for the sound of a heavenly trumpeter clearing his spit valve. Shoot, I can put my hand between a lamp and the wall, hold my fingers up just so, and make shadows that look just like a bunny rabbit. I learned how to do it in Cub Scouts, when I was 10.
Here’s what I want to know: What made these people so sure they were seeing Jesus on the freezer and in the grease? Is that the only possibility? Why couldn’t they have been seeing Willie Nelson, or that weird-ass flute player from Jethro Tull?
Over the years, I’ve noticed that one sighting like this spurs a bunch of copycat sightings. If the Estill Springs Jesus Freezer makes the wire services again, you can bet that people will start seeing the Lord in all kinds of things. But mainly doors. Those of us who watch late-late-night TV know we can count on about one TV filler-feature a month that details a Savior-sighting on the face of a door.
I think I’ve got this one figured out. A lot of doors, in houses and commercial buildings, are covered with wood veneer. Often, the veneer is bookmatched. This means that two successive cuts out of a veneer log are glued together side by side, much like the two pages at the center of a book. Grain patterns on one piece of veneer are mirrored in the other side. It’s real easy for these patterns to look like a face. If a grain squiggle looks like half a nose, it has a counterpart on the other side to complete the picture. Add some twin knotholes, and you’ve got the eyes. It only takes a little imagination to fill in lips, a beard, and wavy hair. Once you start looking at these doors, you’ll see a face in every one of them. Try it, it’s fun.
As far as I know, the wackiest modern-day Jesus sightings came a few years back, when some folks swore they saw Him on Pizza Hut billboards, in the middle of a plate of spaghetti. Some of these visionaries claimed to have seen a crown of thorns on the holy visage. I went out of my way to see one of these billboards, just north of Atlanta. I pulled off the side of the road and stared for a good 10 minutes. Then I tried binoculars. All I saw was spaghetti with a little parsley around the top of the plate.
If you see a holy image on the side of your freezer, change the lighting to see if it goes away. If the image stays no matter what you do with the light, call an appliance repair guy, because you could have a Freon leak. Inhaling Freon can cause hallucinations.
Visit Walter’s Web site at http://www.nash-scene.com/~housesense. Or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.