A typically faceless object is found that inexplicably resembles the face of another person, usually a historical figure. Sometimes the one possessing the object may believe for a moment that the historical figure that the item represents is talking to them. The visage may also represent a religious figure, such as Jesus, and will be believed to be a holy sign from above.
There is a grain of Truth in Television to this trope: Psychologists are certain that the human brain is hard-wired to recognize faces. This condition is called pareidolia. This tendency is so strong, it leads people to perceive "faces" in totally random things such as the pattern of browning on a piece of toast or the weathering of a rock, or strange shapes in the clouds, even though they're nothing more than optical illusions.
This trope is in effect only when the object doesn't intentionally look like a face (or is, but isn't supposed to be recognized as such), but people swear it does. Weathering on a rock counts, but not a statue, a carved coin, or Rushmore Refacement. Seeing a face in a potato, burnt toast or cornchip counts, but not a miniature gummi of the Venus De Milo.
Compare the Inkblot Test, where a patient is judged by what they may see in incoherent stains. Contrast The Blank, when someone who should have a face doesn't have one, and Rushmore Refacement, where someone commits an act of graffiti by carving their own face in the side of a mountain. See also Beast with a Human Face.
- There are plenty of optical illusions that take advantage of this.
- One can show either an old woman or a young one depending on how interprets the features, or what direction one holds the picture.
- The Rubin Vase, which depending on how one looks at it can either show a single vase or two faces.
- The paintings of Giuseppe Arcimboldo show portraits of people made entirely out of fruits and vegetables.
- Movie poster art, particularly for horror films, can take advantage of this for creepy effect. As one example, consider the poster for It Lives by Night featuring a screaming "face" in the river.
- In Creature Tech, the local tourist trap owner claims to have a cinnamon roll bearing the image of Jesus. Dr. Ong thinks it looks more like John Lennon.
- Exploited in Chronicle, where Andrew uses his telekinesis to create a visage of the Virgin Mary in his pancake syrup to freak out a passing waitress.
- The doctor in Return to Oz tries to convince Dorothy of this trope applying to a symmetrically wired electroshock machine.
- Many objects in The Shining's Overlook Hotel suspiciously resemble human faces, most notable and obvious being the"river of blood" scene (warning: nightmare fuel). Many people say it is a manifestation of the Overlook Hotel itself looking down on the characters, others say that it represents the screaming in agony faces of the victims of history. Either way, it's definitely creepy.
- A Running Gag in The Truth involves a man who keeps bringing vegetables from his garden that resemble human faces (and sometimes other body parts) in to the newspaper in the hope that they will find it newsworthy and perhaps print a picture.
- Good Omens features a gag about a tabloid magazine that reports things like people seeing the face of Jesus in various places.
- A guest on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson was a woman who worked at a potato chip factory. She collected potato chips which looked like famous people. At one point while showing her collection, she turned away from Johnny and he took a big crunch; but it was from a bowl of chips he had stashed behind his desk.
- Bones: A Victim of the Week is found in a bale of recycled cardboard. The staining of her blood makes some of the workers who find the bale think it's a vision of the Virgin Mary.
- Johnny Bago: Johnny's RV is taken for a religious shrine because a dirt mark on the front looks like Jesus.
- This was a Running Gag with resident weirdo Cliff on Cheers for a while. He grows a potato that he thinks looks just like Richard Nixon ("The Groom Wore Clearasil"), a turnip that looks like June Lockhart and a squash that looks like the Hawaiian Islands ("Don Juan Is Hell"), and another squash that looks like George Shultz ("Cheers: The Motion Picture").
- Glee: Finn's subplot in the aptly-named episode "Grilled Cheesus" is kickstarted when he thinks he sees Jesus on his grilled cheese sandwich◊.
- An episode of Full House involves a partially peeled potato that looks like Joe Pesci.
- Saving Grace has a couple of episodes featuring "Holy Cow": A bovine with mottles that many characters swear look like the face of Christ.
- The Swirling Eddies reference it in "Urban Legends": "The face of Saint Paul in this butt roast / assures me that I'm going up to Heaven".
- One story arc featured the cynical Wally deliberately creating - and nurturing - a coffee stain in the cafeteria that looks like the face of Jesus to exploit the credulous. He is seen adding to it with judicious drips and drizzles...
- In a similar arc, Dogbert drew a smiley face in a jar of peanut butter and claimed it was a miraculous image of "Saint Ted".
- Sam & Max Hit the Road:
- One of the attractions you can visit is the Celebrity Vegetable Museum, which features assorted fruits and veggies that resemble famous people. The owner has a surplus of eggplants shaped like Conroy Bumpus, and will actually sculpt a vegetable in the shape of anyone you have a picture of, both facts that come in handy later.
- Another attraction you visit in the course of the game is Frog Rock, which much to the disappointment of the Freelance Police barely looks like a frog at all.
Max: My innocence has been shattered by this blatant tourist trap. I want my money back!
Sam: You didn't pay anything.
Max: Well, somebody better give me some money.
- Shelley de Killer from Ace Attorney once testified on the witness stand through a radio. The radio has some features that resemble de Killer himself, such as its dial resembling his monocle. Interestingly, the radio is actually more expressive than de Killer is. The same goes for his appearance in the second Ace Attorney Investigations, where an ice cream cone he carries resembles his face, with a cherry serving as the monocle.
- Homestar Runner:
- In "Where's The Cheat?", Marzipan notices her vegetarian burger looks like a face, and decides it's too cute to eat. She names it Homestar Jr. and spends the rest of the episode talking to it as if it were her son.
- Strong Bad Email: An Easter Egg in the episode "pop up" features an aerial photo of Manicouagan Reservoir in Quebec that looks surprisingly similar to Strong Sad's head.context
- The Onion has a slideshow entitled "Ten Sandwiches That Look Like British Novelist Martin Amis". The joke is that they're all photos of Martin Amis himself, with captions claiming that they're sandwiches.
- The Simpsons:
- A newspaper article in "Radio Bart" features a squirrel resembling Abraham Lincoln.
- A bunch of beans are said to resemble The Leader of a cult in "The Joy of Sect".
- In another episode, Homer eats an old waffle that looks like Jesus he finds stuck to the kitchen ceiling. "Mmm, sacrelicious..."
- An episode of WordGirl has Becky seeking a pinecone resembling Lincoln as part of a scavenger hunt she's participating in.
- In Recess, T.J. is granted a corn chip in the shape of Lincoln's head for a perceived act of heroism due to his shiner. He hallucinates that the chip is talking to him and Honest Abe is saying he should tell the truth about how he got his black eye.
- Chuckie of Rugrats couldn't sleep because of monsters under his bed. It wasn't a scary, hungry monster under Chuckie's bed, but a colorful sweater curled in such a way that looked like a monster enough to even make Chaz flinch.
- The characters in The Weekenders go to a museum every week to sample ethnic foods. One time when sampling Andean potatoes, one of them found a potato that resembled their friend Lor. Lor didn't see the resemblance, but took offense when the potato was eaten.
- Shake and Carl on Aqua Teen Hunger Force once tried to make a money-making venture out of an oil stain on Carl's driveway that looked like Jesus. It didn't take off.
- In the Phineas and Ferb episode "Unfair Science Fair Redux", Candace accidentally becomes Queen of Mars, and the native martians sculpt the Face on Mars (see below) in her likeness. Unfortunately, it gets zapped by one of Dr. Doofenshmirtz's old -inators before she can show it to her mother, and ends up looking more like "a rhesus monkey wearing a powdered wig" to Linda.
- In Gravity Falls, one of Grunkle Stan's attractions is the Rock-that-Looks-Like-a-Face Rock, the rock that looks like a face. People are having trouble telling whether it is a rock or a face.
Tourist 1: Does it look like a rock?Stan: No, it looks like a face.Tourist 2: Is it a face?Stan: No, it's a rock that looks like a face!(...)Stan: For the fifth time, it's not an actual face!
- This is taken to such a length that in Not What He Seems, secret agents are so distracted by the question, they completely ignore Mabel and Dipper slipping into the house.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
- Jesus's Face has been reported found in toasted bread.
- The Face of Mars, which Viking I took pictures of in the 1970s, turns out to be just a mountain with some shadows. This didn't stop rampant speculation about a humanoid civilization that may have lived on Mars.
- The Old Man of the Mountain was a famous New Hampshire rock formation that resembled a human face in profile, when viewed from the north. The formation, which was famous enough to go on the New Hampshire state quarter, collapsed in 2003.
- The Man in the Moon, as well as the Moon Rabbit.
- On July 13th 2015, the first clear images of the dwarf planet Pluto were taken and sent to earth. Many people have noted that it has a light patch on the surface that resembles a heart.
- It's thought that the original trolls (who turn to stone in daylight) were imagined by people seeing rock formations that looked humanoid.
- Automobile manufacturers/designers are well aware of this trope and how people tend to see a "face" on the front of cars (with the headlights as eyes). They've actually started taking this into account in the aesthetics of the design: some cars are meant to look "friendly" or "cool" or "angry" based on the image the company is trying to project for the product.
- Certain face recognition/detection software tend to make false positives - where, if you squint just enough, said false positive kind of does... well, look like a face.