March 25, 2006

Quad Cities not immune from religious gullibility

People will believe ANYTHING.
MOLINE -- Reported sightings of the Virgin Mary on a Moline bridge over the Rock River have drawn crowds of faithful believers.

It all started innocently enough with a trip to the Rock River shore near the former Harold's on the Rock by the Larry Handel family of Colona to fetch a piece of driftwood for a new pet turtle.

Yet, what the family discovered was immeasurably more rewarding.

A vision of the Virgin Mary extending from the river's surface upward on a pillar of the Interstate 74 bridge was seen first by Abraham Handel, 5. When he pointed it out to his parents, his mother, Andrea Handel, screamed in amazement.

"And I was more than freaked out by it," Abraham's dad, Larry Handel, said Friday. "And I'm a former Marine. Nothing's supposed to surprise me."

A week later, Mrs. Handel said she's still walking around dazed, amazed by what her family witnessed.

"We kept it under our hats for a couple days, but then told Father about it," Mr. Handel said. The Handels belong to Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church in Silvis.

The Rev. Jerry Logan and parishioners then gathered at the spot to say the rosary.

Rev. Logan declined to comment about the sighting, which Mr. Handel says is understandable, owing to his wish not to make any waves or upset leaders of the Peoria Diocese.

More than 25 people gathered and saw the Virgin Mary vision Sunday, and equal-sized groups have returned around 7:30 each night hoping to see it, Mr. Handel said.

"She comes out at night when the river is still," he said. Yet, it's bright enough, and there's enough light on the bridge to make it highly visible, he said.

"It has to be at night," Mrs. Handel said. "It's a matter of the reflection of light in the pillar and the reflection of the water.

And it seems that children must be present, Mr. Handel said.

"Kids have told their parents that they have gotten messages from Her," he said.

She told Abraham She was there to protect him, and that there will be peace, Mrs. Handel said.

Another boy, Triton Perez, also heard the Virgin Mary tell him that everything and everyone's going to be OK, Mr. Handel said.

"It's unbelievable, but it's real and it's true," former Silvis mayor Joe Terronez said.

"I was there on Monday night, but could see only a little bit of an outline," he said. "I came back Tuesday, and took my wife and daughter. I must have parked in the right place, because I looked out the windshield, and saw Her right away. She was brilliant.

"We were there last night (Thursday) til 10:30, and I tell you, it absolutely glows. It's like a neon light," he said. "Believe me, it overwhelmed me."

Silvis resident and church member Pebbles Puentes agreed.

"It was awesome," she said. "When I first saw Her, it gave me a chill right up my spine."

Her son, Emilio Puentes, 15, saw the vision first, she said. It's not surprising, she said, that Mary's appearing so easily to children, owing to the special place children hold in Her heart.

It has been equally as moving to adults, though, Mr. Handel said.

When an aunt, Dolores Esparza, saw the vision, "We had to keep her from going in the river," he said.

Ms. Esparza is Triton's grandmother "and she's a real strong Catholic," Mr. Handel said.

"I'm what you'd call a `regular Catholic,' but I'm not a tambourine-playing one," Mr. Handel said. "I'm a disabled vet, and my wife and I have had a hard life for the last two years, but this has made me feel closer to my church.

"I'm old-school, and believe in Mary, but I never believed I would have an experience like this."

Some people have doubted what he's told them about the vision. "Friends wonder what kind of medications I'm on," he said. "But a lot of people have come out here now, and have seen it."

People have left flowers and candles, and some have photographed the vision, he said.

He tells anyone disbelieving him to just join him at the Rock River and see for themselves.

Since the first sighting, Mr. Handel also believes he's seen a vision of Jesus coming from the tomb on the other side of the pillar.

"The visions are bringing people back to their faith," he said. "It touches people."

"People better take this chance to see it," Mr. Terronez said. "I hope the whole Quad-Cities, and the whole world sees it."

"Have faith in Her," Mrs. Puentes said. "She's trying to leave us some sort of message."
And people wonder how come so many people support Bush? People will abandon all logic if told something they want really want to believe, no matter how ridiculous. And they immediately start embellighing and adding more fable to it in order to reinforce their deception. And of course, an element of fear and uncertainly always helps.

The image of Pamela Anderson appeared on a paper towel I used to line the inside of my microwave. I have made a little shrine and have several candles lit around it right now.

It seems that men have to be around to see it, which makes sense because of the special place she holds in their hearts.

She's spoken to myself and a couple friends as well. Exactly what she said probably isn't fit for public consumption, but rest assured it was a message of comfort and joy.

Here's a site dealing with a few other "sightings". I particularly like the account of the guy who found Jesus peeking at him from a mildew stain next to his bathtub.

And if you'd like to bone up on the Virgin Mary's appearance on dozens of tortillas, cinnamon danishes, office windows, grilled cheese sandwiches, and elsewhere, here's the book for you.

Todd Mizener, the Dispatch/Argus photographer who shot the top photo, left this interesting account of his experience on the D/A staff blog, "Beyond Print":
I didn’t see it. I couldn’t see it. I had 300-mm lens and a 1.4x tele-converter and I still couldn’t see it.

Everyone around me saw it. I stood in the cold with the Nikon D2H mounted on a tripod and clicked away. Carefully refocusing between frames.

I stood there adjusting the exposure periodically and checking my screen to see what I had when I heard a voice behind me proclaim, “There it is…you got a nice shot of her.”

I said to myself “I did?” ‘Great’ I thought I have it but where is it? I don’t see it. Where is the imageb they all can see? They say I have it but I can’t see it.

The true believers gathered around the back of my camera and oohed and awed over my photos. They asked me to scroll through them so they could see all of them. They said they couldn’t wait to see my photo in the paper. I still couldn’t see what they saw. I tried. I squinted and changed my angle but still she wasn’t there for me.

One gentleman helped me edit my images as we stood in the cold. He told me which shots were better than others. “Oh there she is. Now that is a good one,” he said.

I quickly locked that image so that it couldn’t be deleted from the camera. I didn’t want to take the chance of mistaking it for one of my lesser images when I got back to the office.

With the help of reporter Kurt Allemeier (who was on the scene along the Rock River) and photographer Dan Videtich we picked out what we thought was the best image. I hope the true believers will see what they are looking for in my photo.

If the image of the Virgin Mary is really under the I-74 bridge over the Rock River in Moline I am glad I was there to capture it. The only problem is that for the first time in my career I couldn’t see my subject.

I guess sometimes you just have to take a shot in the dark and have a little faith.
An excellent account of the power of suggestion causing some people to think they see things that simply don't exist and a photographer used to dealing with reality, as in things that are actually visible, trying in ernest to capture what the suggestible believe is there. It's like two people looking for things in clouds.
My money is on the guy who sticks to reality. Nothing wrong with fantasy, mind you, nothing at all. But actually BELIEVING fantasy, and further yet, ascribing religious meaning to it.... now that's another matter.

Some suggest that it's a harmless trifle which at least serves to uplift the spirits of people. That may be true. But it also reveals the disturbing fact that people can be so easily manipulated and caused to believe just about anything with the right mix of religious fairy tales and fear.

And that, as we've seen over the past several years, can have dangerous and deadly consequences.


At 3/25/2006 1:07 PM, Anonymous JohnCAnderson said...

Although their is only one "Inaside Dope," there are plenty of "Outside Dopes," and they are all standing outside staring at a bridge.

At 3/25/2006 1:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry but I can not see it. I belive in these types of things I just can not see it here. But It does warrant a trip down to the river.

At 3/25/2006 3:36 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

I don't really see the harm in it. I kind of wish I wasn't so cynical as to instantly discount these things, but I am.

I mean... I can see the shape of a hooded figure, but who decided that every hooded figure seen in windows, bridges, or tortillas is the Virgin Mary? Or that every bearded guy is Jesus? Maybe the image under the bridge is Obiwan Kenobi?

At 3/25/2006 3:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Or perhaps this is a genius marketing scheme by someone with the city of Moline to get people to visit the largely hidden and hugely unwelcoming little park down there?

At 3/25/2006 4:25 PM, Blogger diehard said...

Hey Dope
Don't knock religious gulability, it has been an effective tool of the Republican party for about 6 years now.
Remember they are the puritan party? But why is it that almost all of these right wing congressmen either have a girlfriend or on wife number 2 or 3?
And you know the Chimpmaster is a regular church goer. He always knows exactly what the Good Lord wants to do. Crash planes into buildings, declare war for your own political benifi etc!

At 3/25/2006 4:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think I did see it. If you squint your eyes, look towards the left while standing on your head, you might see the image. Or maybe I need to smoke some of that Mexican Wacky Weed.

I see that Joe Moreno saw the image,too. I guess since he didn’t see that loss coming, it was time for him to see something. Amazes me how he always seems to get his name into the paper somehow. Quite a coincidence he was there when the writer of the article was there. Does he have a member of his posse at the paper to warn him of upcoming press presense?

The t-shirts will be done by Monday. I will be selling them, rosarys and tacos by the recycling bin at the bridge.

At 3/25/2006 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it looks more like Sister Bertril.

At 3/25/2006 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew the Dope had no soul.

At 3/25/2006 10:52 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Soul? I got plenty of soul.

James Brown might be the Godfather of Soul y'all, but I'm its second cousin twice removed.

And if you think having a soul is being a simpleton who finds religious inspiration in vague shapes found in nature, then I'm afraid you've given up reason and logic and rely on superstition to guide your life.

And speaking of soul, I think the great Stevie Wonder, a man of faith himself, put it best:

"When you believe in things
that you don't understand
then you suffer.
Superstition ain't the way."

At 3/25/2006 11:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 3/26/2006 2:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I see things have really slowed down after the primary. Not much to talk about for a while, except "optical delusions". Hey why don't we talk about CARP? That ought to bring a laugh or two.

At 3/26/2006 3:13 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

Oh lord, don't remind me. Didn't I see something about Jacobs' scheme to transfer more millions out of the state treasury to his pals at the fishery company by forcing prisoners to eat carp??

First he wants us to subsidize the company, now he wants to get them some fat contract and provide a forced market for them. Guess he really is a "man of the people", if you happen to be a "people" who runs a fish processing business in the district.

I'm almost afraid to look at the article.

At 3/26/2006 9:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, there was an article about that very thing in Sat.'s QC Times. My question is, what inmates? Thompson Prison is empty! Oh, yeah I forgot about all the campaign talk.

I'm glad to see Mike "tackle" this issue. Some must have bought it, "hook, line, and sinker".

At 3/26/2006 10:19 AM, Blogger Rawk Eyelund said...

I saw Osama Bin laden in Sylvan Slough. What does that mean?

At 3/26/2006 10:32 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I'm not a doctor, but I do play one on TV and I slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

My considered opinion as to what that means is that for one reason or another, you weren't getting enough oxygen to the brain.

This could be due to any number of causes, such as wearing a necktie too tight, being strangled by someone at the time, or having your head inside a dry cleaning bag.

But it may have been that you'd ingested some sort of mind altering substance and mistook a tangle of fishing line hanging from one of the bridges for bin Laden's beard, and like the fine folks down at the Rock River, your imagination took care of the rest.

If none of that applies, then it's possible that it actually WAS Osama bin Laden. After all, he's still around somewhere. Might be Sylvan Slough... why not?

At 3/26/2006 3:40 PM, Blogger diehard said...

No that was just a Bin-Laden relative who works for Haliburtin!
Some other rich person that is profiting from the "War on Terr!"

At 3/26/2006 11:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i saw the image in the photo right away but myself and a few friends went down there tonight at about 10 1030pm we didnt see it granted every other light on the bridge was out and we werent looking in the right spot! there was a lot of people down so i guess they saw something! who knows what it could be either it is or it isnt i like to think it could be the virgin mary its about time there was some peace in this world!

At 3/27/2006 12:05 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

I couldn't agree more. Peace always seems in short supply.

But is the play of light on concrete bridge piers really going to bring peace?

That would be very cool if it could.

But no matter how hard I wish that might be so, I just can't make myself believe it.

At 3/27/2006 10:18 AM, Anonymous amyc said...

I think the real miracle in this story is that there is a woman named Pebbles Puentes! Is that not the best name ever?

At 3/27/2006 3:15 PM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

amyc... ha! That IS a beauty, isn't it? Too cool.

And with this story now being broadcast on CNN and other worldwide news outlets, it's a real opportunity for salesmen of all stripes.

It's a dream come true. A huge gathering of the most gullible people imaginable... and you don't even have to find them... they're all coming to one place!

I've got a truck load of "I saw the Virgin Mary in a bridge pier" t-shirts and a lot of cheesy little medallions on the way. I'll make a mint.

But with this crowd, it would be a gold mine for siding salesman, times shares... anything.

At 4/01/2006 6:04 PM, Blogger maybesomeday said...

Perhaps you can only see the vision if you are able to speak in tougues? I can't make out much from it myself....


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