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weeping statue

A weeping statuephoto by Bob Carroll, The Skeptic's Dictionary of non-weeping statue is a statue, usually of Mary the mother of Jesus, that allegedly weeps tears of water, blood, or an oil of some sort.

Mary is also known to Christians, especially Roman and various Orthodox Catholics, as "the mother of God" and "the Virgin Mary." Mary, it is believed by those who revere her, was assumed into heaven (i.e., flew into the sky) at the end of her earthly life and makes regular visits to Earth to perform miracles and deliver messages like "repent" and "quit sinning." Allegedly, one of her ways of communicating to earthlings is to drip liquid from the eyes of specially chosen statues and paintings. Apparently, this is her way of letting us know that she weeps for our sinfulness, or some such thing, and that some people's statues are more worthy than others of her presence.

The weeping statues are either a sign that the divine is demented or that there are a number of pious frauds who think they are doing god's work by hoaxing others. It is certainly possible that a woman who gave birth to a baby she called Jesus about 2,000 years ago flew into the sky, disappeared, and occasionally reappears to do such things as squirt olive oil from a pore in a piece of limestone or ceramic. On the other hand, it seems much more likely that weeping statues are hoaxes, though a few might be due to natural causes like condensation, weathering, aging, chemical reaction to the air, etc.

Non-drying oils, such as olive oil, have been used in the past to saturate statues that later appear to be bleeding or weeping. Religious frauds count on belief in their honesty and integrity, as well as in the pilgrim's desire to witness a miracle. Perhaps the pious frauds justify their deception by thinking they are helping bring people to a belief in god. They might ask themselves, what kind of god wants admirers who must be tricked into admiration? For more on the oil trick see Joe Nickell.

For those who wish to create their own weeping statue, Italian skeptic Luigi Garlaschelli describes one way to do it:

What is needed is a hollow statue made of a porous material such as plaster or ceramic. The icon must be glazed or painted with some sort of impermeable coating. If the statue is then filled up with a liquid (surreptitiously, through a tiny hole in the head, for example), the porous material will absorb it, but the glazing will stop it from flowing out. If the glazing, however, is imperceptibly scratched away on or around the eyes, tear-like drops will leak out, as if materializing from thin air. If the cavity behind the eyes is small enough, once all the liquid has dripped out there are virtually no traces left in the icon. When I put it to the test, this trick proved to be very satisfactory, baffling all onlookers.*

A simpler method is just to smear blood or oil on the icon.

Some reports of weeping statues may be the result of collective hallucination, a sensory hallucination induced by the power of suggestion to a group of people. Such hallucinations generally occur in heightened emotional situations, especially among the religiously devoted. The expectancy and hope of bearing witness to a miracle, combined with long hours of staring at an object or place, make certain religious persons susceptible to seeing such things as weeping statues, moving icons and holy portraits, or the Virgin Mary in the clouds.

If you see a statue weeping, don't think miracle, think fraud or hysteria.

See also Catalina Rivas, faith healing, Fatima, John of God, Lourdes, mass hysteria, stigmata, victim soul, Mass Media Bunk (commentary on a 20/20 program called "The miracle of Audrey") and my review of Fox Network's "Signs From God: Science Tests Faith."

further reading

books and articles

Nickell, Joe. Looking For A Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions and Healing Cures (Prometheus Books: Buffalo, N.Y., 1993).

"Miraculous" Phenomena, by Joe Nickell, in The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal edited by Gordon Stein (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1996).

Wilson, Ian. The Bleeding Mind: An Investigation into the Mysterious Phenomenon of Stigmata (London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1988).

Miracles or Deception? The Pathetic Case of Audrey Santo by Joe Nickell


Do It Yourself Weeping Madonna Statue

Church artifacts with miraculous powers: Weeping/bleeding statues

Weeping Statues and Icons - Blood, Water, Oil

The Skeptiseum

Religion Wiki


Faithful flock to see statue of Mary reported to weep at night

A Virgin weeping or smiling statue?Mary statue is drawing scores of people to an ethnic Roman Catholic church with reports that she smiles during the day and weeps tears of healing oil at night. Two veteran investigators of religious and paranormal phenomenon cautioned, however, that the weeping Madonna figure is more likely a case of "pious deception." The plaster statue has been displayed since Nov. 6 at St. Charbel Maronite Roman Catholic Church in Windsor, Ontario, a modest brick building serving Lebanese Catholics.

Last updated 27-Oct-2015

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