Hurricane Matthew “Skull” Image: Is It Real or Fake?

A creepy picture purporting to show a skull in the satellite images of Hurricane Matthew has been spreading like wildfire all over the Internet this week. It’s so unbelievable that it seems exactly like the kind of thing that would probably be fake, created in Photoshop but subsequently shared on social media anyway before it’s eventually debunked. So what’s going on with this picture? Is it real?

Believe it or not, yes, it is. The meteorologist who did the original broadcast where this image was taken from confirmed on Facebook that the skull image is 100% real and did indeed come from his show.

“I can confirm this satellite image of Matthew’s landfall is REAL and not photoshopped,” he wrote. “Captured this morning during my weathercast. Freaky!”

Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti on Tuesday and is expected to make its way into Florida on Friday morning, according to CNN. The affect on Haiti was devastating, as it was a Category 4 storm with 125 miles-per-hour winds when it hit on Tuesday morning. Florida Governor Rick Scott has told Floridians to prepare for the worst.

Though of course it is a complete coincidence, this strange image coupled with Americans’ preexisting fears about the oncoming storm set off a frenzy of posts on Facebook and Twitter, with some making jokes about it and others being legitimately spooked.

The phenomenon of seeing faces or objects in images like these is known as pareidolia, and some prior examples have included the famous “Face on Mars” image. Because we have been trained to recognize faces, our brains will often pick up on even a smallest resemblance to a face and interpret it as such.

“The tendency to detect faces in ambiguous visual information is perhaps highly adaptive given the supreme importance of faces in our social life and the high cost resulting from failure to detect a true face,” Professor Kang Lee from the University of Toronto told The Daily Mail.

Not everyone is actually seeing the skull in the image above, and indeed it is believed that some people are more susceptible to pareidolia than others.