Philosophy of Religion

Miracle or not ?

The Shroud of Turin

Is it the face of Jesus by some mysterious and miraculous means?

Read here about whether or not it is authentic and a miracle


Veronica's Veil is a legendary Christian relic. The faithful believe that Veronica from Jerusalem encountered Jesus along the Via Dolorosa on the way to Calvary. When she paused to wipe the sweat (Latin suda) off his face with her veil, his image was imprinted on the cloth. The event is commemorated by one of the Stations of the Cross. According to legend, Veronica later traveled to Rome to present the cloth to the Roman Emperor Tiberius. It had miraculous properties, being able to quench thirst, restore blindness, and sometimes even raise the dead.  read about it >Veronica's Veil
Is this a Miracle?  The face of the deity in a sweet roll?  Mother Theresa on a cinnamon bun?

Some claim it is!!  Some see Papa Smurf!

Porcelain statue weeping human blood

"A six-inch-high porcelain statue began weeping tears of blood. The liquid staining the image is genuinely blood, and human at that. The Santiago coroner's office pronounced the substance is type O-4 human blood. The statue weeps regularly, particularly in the presence of children."

( Source: The Guardian, UK, 4 December 1992 )

Virgin Mary on a Grill Cheese Sandwich sold on E-Bay to a casino for $28,000  2004
Jesus in a Perogi for sale on E-Bay 2009 Starting bid $5


Virgin Mary in a hard boiled egg


August 1, 2008  Tom Radler AP

Cheesus? -- Woman Sees Christ in Snack Food
We've heard that God works in mysterious ways, but we assumed the Lord Almighty had better things to do than manipulate puffed corn. Alas, we may be mistaken.

A Missouri woman is claiming she recently discovered a depiction of the crucifixion in her Cheetos. "I think I found Jesus on a Cheeto, as funny as that sounds," said Kelly Ramey of High Ridge, who calls her cheezy find "Cheesus."

Ramey's pastor, David Bennett, was not as enthusiastic about the Cheeto's theological significance, but he thinks some good may come of it. "If people can find Jesus, somehow, in each of us like she's found in this object, that would be a wonderful thing."

Ramey plans to keep her divine snack food in a safe deposit box. If she ever decides to get enterprising, she might score some big bucks with Cheesus. After all, someone paid $1,350 earlier this year for a cornflake shaped like the state of Illinois.



Apparitions of Virgin Mary in Zeitun

Starting in April, 1968, Virgin Mary apparitions of light at Zeitun, Egypt, were seen by more than a million people. The apparitions were broadcast by Egyptian TV, photographed by hundreds of professional photographers and personally witnessed by Egyptian President Abdul Nasser, an avowed Marxist. The apparitions lasted for three years with numerous unaccountable healings recorded by various medical professionals. The local police, who initially thought the apparitions were an elaborate hoax, searched a 15-mile radius surrounding the site to uncover any type of device that could be used to project such images. They were completely unsuccessful.

(Reports with videos and photos at and

Silhouette of Virgin Mary on the building

During three weeks over Christmas 1996, 450,000 people went to view the wall of a black glass building in south Florida where an image of the Virgin Mary had appeared. The rainbow-coloured image on the outside of the building in Clearwater, Florida, is about 50 feet wide and 35 feet tall, and stretches across nine panes of glass.
(Sources: Associated Press; Clearwater Times; St Petersburg Times, USA)

"We're not able to explain how the shape appeared or why it appeared," said George Pecoraro, a scientist with a glass manufacturing company. "It could be an accident or maybe it's divine intervention." Carlo Pantano, a professor of materials science and engineering at Pennsylvania State University, said: "We can try to explain it, but not who controlled it or why it happened here at this time." There is also no explanation to the fact that parts of image on nine panes of glass come together so perfectly.

In the spring of 1997, someone threw an acidic substance on part of the image. For a few days, the image lost its artistic precision, but then, overnight, it recovered to the original state.(Source: Associated Press; reported in Share International, June 1997 )

Hindu statues drinking milk

The biggest worldwide miracle in the previous decade happened when Hindu statues drank milk on 21. 9. 1995. Never before in history has a simultaneous miracle occurred on such a global scale. Television stations (among them CNN and BBC), radio and newspapers (among them Washington post, New York Times, The Guardian and Daily Express) eagerly covered this unique phenomenon, and even sceptical journalists held their milk-filled spoons to the statues of gods - and watched as the milk disappeared.

The media coverage was extensive all over the world, and although some scientists and 'experts' (but not all since some of them witnessed it themselves and reported "an authentic miracle") created theories of "capillary absorption" (although some statues were metal, made of bronze or even gold) and "mass hysteria" (although: (a) it was happening in different places of the world simultaneously, to believers and sceptics, (b) the milk, as a physical substance, was disappearing and (c) the event was not foretold by some charismatic prophet and did not coincide with some other major event), the overwhelming evidence and conclusion was that an unexplainable miracle had occurred.
(Video: Miracles and Visions: Fact or Fiction, (C) 1996, Kiviat Productions, Vidmark Ent.)

Miracles with vegetables

The home of Salim and Ruksana Patel, in Bolton, England, has recently been inundated with about 50 visitors a day, coming to see their miraculous aubergine. Mrs Patel foresaw the miracle in a dream after she'd bought the aubergine from their local shop. On slicing the vegetable in half, she saw that the seeds were formed in the Muslim symbol "Ya-Allah", meaning Allah exists.
(Source: Daily Mail, UK; reported in Share International, June 1996)

Also Mrs. Palmar, on slicing nine aubergines, discovered, on every slice, the Hindu symbol for God. Hundreds of worshippers have flocked to see the miraculous vegetables, which are on display at the local Brapadi Temple.
(Source: Share International, No. 7, Sept. 1997; reports in Reuters, International Express, The Guardian, The Sun, Bradford Telegraph, UK)
  There were also reports of the name 'Allah' appearing on beans and potatoes.
(Source: de Volkskrant, the Netherlands, 1997)

Pilgrims have adorned Passaic, N.J., tree stump they say features likeness of Virgin Mary.

Seeing Mary in  a stump in N.J.

The Lord may work in mysterious ways - but a tree stump in Passaic, N.J.?

A gnarled, 3-foot-tall stump at Hope Ave. and Madison St. has caused a sensation among believers who say the deadwood is a dead ringer for the Virgin Mary.

"It's incredible," said Pedro De La Luz, 28, who took a picture of the stump with his cell phone to send to his family in Mexico. "Milagro" (miracle), he said.

Pilgrims placed hundreds of votive candles, bouquets and images of the Virgin Mary around the stump since word started spreading last week.

In the beginning

A woman reportedly spotted the stump Oct. 17 after a business group hired someone to clear the overgrown patch of land next to a highway overpass where addicts were known to use drugs.

"The farther you go back, the better you see the image of the Virgin," said Carlos Curling, 44. "It's just great to see the faith of the people."

Someone had even erected a wooden shelter over the shrine Friday night.

"I was a little skeptical coming here, but when I walked up to it, I said, 'Oh, my God,'" said Linda, 47, of Wayne, N.J., who gave only her first name.

Others weren't quite so sure.

"I'm still thinking about it," said Alicja Poltorak, 49, who came from nearby Clifton, to see it for herself. "It's whatever you believe, I guess."

Margaret, a local Catholic who also gave only her first name, said it was good for the community even though she couldn't see the image herself.

"Even if it's not true, it's good because there are so many bad things in the world," she said.

The Virgin Mary has been sighted by the faithful in Fatima, Portugal; Lourdes, France, and Guadalupe, Mexico.

New York Daily News  Originally published on October 26, 2003


Miracle pictures in Islam

Virgin Mary on Wall

Virgin Mary on Toast $28,000

Nun Bun or Mother Theresa Bun stolen

Miracle Tortilla

IMAGES and VIDEOS with examples of such perceptions of phenomena as Pareidolia :

The human ability to interpret essentially random patterns of images or sounds as some recognizable image or sound or pattern is known as pareidolia, a type of illusion or misperception involving a vague or obscure stimulus being perceived as something known and that is clear and distinct.  This is demonstrated by humans thinking that they see the image of a man in the surface of the moon once prompted to look at it that way or perhaps arriving at the pattern on their own.  Similarly looking at clouds in order to see what patterns they may contain or suggest that resemble animals or some other well known shapes.  The images , known as simulacra, are identified by the brain with some prior image or pattern.

"Pareidolia is a psychological phenomenon involving a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) being perceived as significant."     Source:

See further:

"Carl Sagan hypothesized that as a survival technique, human beings are "hard-wired" from birth to identify the human face. This allows people to use only minimal details to recognize faces from a distance and in poor visibility but can also lead them to interpret random images or patterns of light and shade as being faces."

And for the science part, an interesting article -on facial recognition : "the Selectivity of the Occipitotemporal M170 for faces" in Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuropsychology , Vol. 11 No 27 February 2000.

Read:   Rorschach Icons  by Joe Nickell  Skeptical Inquirer magazine, Volume 28, Number 6, November/December 2004

The phenomena is demonstrated in what people think that they see in clouds, windows with condensation on them, ink blots, or even on food items such as beans or in bagels or on cinnamon buns or grilled cheese sandwiches and the like.  The phenomena is also observed with sounds with what is known as Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) or "white noise" or in a popular form known as "Raudive voices". When people think that they hear a sound or see an image that does not exist at all the mental phenomena is known as apophenia,  the spontaneous perception of connections and meaningfulness of unrelated phenomena. The term was coined by K. Conrad in 1958 .   When looking at tables of numbers or looking at statistical reports and finding some special message or significance in those figures , apophenia is called a Type I error.  It is highly probable that apophenia is involved in a number of reports of phenomena that cannot be confirmed with empirical investigations such as  those falling into the realm of the spiritual, supernatural or paranormal,  including apparent appearances of ghosts or reports of events that are attributed to a haunting , Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) or "white noise", perhaps in forms of numerology and in claims about deciphering messages in large amounts of text such as with the Bible Code claims.   People tend to "read into" text what they want to find there in the case of large amounts of text such as the Bible or in vaguely phrased texts such as the work of Nostradamus.

In the context of religion with these phenomena people see what they want to see and hear what they want to hear.


Spontaneous Remissions in Medicine

Weeping Statues

Weeping Paintings


PENN and TELLER: Signs from Heaven

DERREN BROWN: Miracles for Sale Faith Healing

Miracle Detectives - Mysterious Oils: Skeptic Meets a Believer



Miracle Detectives - Holy Dirt of Chimayo: Healing Testimony


Quranic miracles debunked.

Solving Mysteries - Exploring the Science of Miracles  Luigi Garlaschelli  Liquifying Blood –Stigmata-Shroud of Turin

READ: Joe Nickell, Examining Miracle Claims:


You cannot claim that "miracles exist unless someone proves that they do not exist."  The burden of proof is always on the claim that X exists rather than on the claim that X does not exist. It is a fallacy to claim that X exists unless you prove that there is no X.  What is improper is for a person to claim that "X exists" and when asked to prove it the person who made the claim uses as a defense of "X exists" the claim next claim that no one has proven that X does not exist.

IMPORTANT!!!!!    READ: The Burden of Proof

What is the best way to proceed when there is a report of some appearance of a religious figure on a wall or pancake, etc...  Should the process favor a more natural explanation until proven otherwise?
The best explanation would be the one that has the best fit with facts or the explanation that is best supported by claims that are themselves each well supported by other well supported claims.This is a process of explanation that rests heavily on the use of reason and the insistence on evidence to support claims about physical events or a physical state of affairs.  So any appearance of any phenomena that is detectable by the senses should have an explanation concerning how the physical state of affairs has come about to produce that appearance to human senses.  The burden of proof concerning physical claims is with those making the positive assertion.
The explanation must also avoid the pattern of thinking that if one cannot prove that X is not the cause then X is the cause.  One can not appeal to the absence of evidence or proof as constituting the basis for any conclusions.  If one cannot prove what caused phenomenon P then one must withhold accepting the conclusion that any particular cause C is the cause of P.
If there is a claim that phenomenon N (natural event-perceived by the senses) was caused by factor S (supernatural cause) then there needs to be evidence to support the claim.
So the explanation of an event such as the appearance of a figure resembling what someone thinks of as a figure from religious history would need to have evidence to support it.  In the absence of physical evidence, then the preponderance of the evidence is support of explanations of phenomena of a similar type might be given "preferred" status until subsequent evidence supports another conclusion.
Using the resort of a supernatural explanation has so many "gaps " in that it is less preferred in the absence of strong evidence in support of a naturalistic explanation or the holding of the expectation of a naturalistic explanation to be forthcoming. The supernatural explanation has no physical evidence (natural) to support it and no explanation of how it is that non-physical entities cause physical events in the natural realm.
There is also the very important question to be answered in this particular case of why it is that anyone alive thinks that they known just what Mary looked like.  Why assume that the image is the image of any particular historical or or mythical entity?  This is a case of a simulacrum.
The use of the reasoning pattern :
If you can not explain the event or phenomena by use of a natural explanation then it is a supernaturally caused event involving the spiritual or supernatural beings A B, C, etc...
is both illogical and generated by and rests upon faith that is held to sustain hope.  This is a habit of mind that is quite strong as it has consequences thought to be beneficial by the holder of the habit.









D.  Joe Nickell, Examining Miracle Claims:

E. Spontaneous Remissions in Medicine


Weeping Statues

Weeping Paintings



Pareidolia  c


Miracle pictures in Islam

Virgin Mary on Wall

Virgin Mary on Toast $28,000

Nun Bun or Mother Theresa Bun stolen


Miracle Tortilla


Solving Mysteries - Exploring the Science of Miracles

Luigi Garlaschelli  Liquifying Blood –Stigmata-Shroud of Turin

PENN and TELLER: Signs from Heaven

DERREN BROWN: Miracles for Sale Faith Healing

Miracle Detectives - Mysterious Oils: Skeptic Meets a Believer



Miracle Detectives - Holy Dirt of Chimayo: Healing Testimony


Quranic miracles debunked.


Is the following story really about a miracle?

Are Miracles Real?
by Paul Pearsall, Ph.D.  
A miracle happened in Maui. I died. I was near death three times. I came back. I wrote the first edition of this book more than ten years ago, just after Maui had breathed the sacred ha, the breath of life, back into my body. As a clinical psychologist and behavioral medicine researcher living on Maui, I had always sensed it was a magical and spiritual place, but I had toned down my sharing of my excitement so as to avoid mockery from my skeptical and often cynical colleagues. As miracles do, mine changed all that.

Medical tests confirmed that I had been rescued against all odds from a virulent Stage IV cancer that had eaten away my bones and left me dying in agony. I tried to tell my doctors to spread the news that miracles are real and to tell their patients that not only their powerful science but also Maui's spiritual energy had saved my life. I yearned to tell my scientific colleagues that they were dangerously wrong to doubt the reality of miracles and that it was no longer necessary to pretend that they did not also believe in miracles. I wanted them to embrace the words of David Ben-Gurion that "in order to be realist you must believe in miracles".

Although sympathetic with my excitement about miracles, many skeptics ignored what I thought was the great and reassuring news about miracles. They said that what I was calling a miracle was only a short and temporary reprieve from certain death. They said that my 'remarkable recovery' was purely the result of statistical good luck, an extremely unlikely numerical fluke that happens occasionally but is only a mathematical necessity that must pop up from time to time by predicted rules, and at best only a sort of "scientific mini-miracle" that is no big news at all and undeserving of any further explanation beyond that of one of those extremely low-probability happenings that must occur from time to time. I was often criticized for my Maui love-blindness that some said had clouded my scientific objectivity. I was told that I had lost the necessary skepticism of the scientist -- but according to Webster's dictionary, I, in fact, now considered myself even more of a skeptic post-miracle than before.

For Webster defines a skeptic as someone who is thoughtful, inquiring, and willing to suspend judgment on matters not generally accepted. I am a much more thoughtful skeptic now. I am willing to suspend judgment about matters such as life after death, reincarnation, so-called psychic "psi" experiences, the meaning and role of consciousness, and other challenges to mainstream science. I am willing to consider the normalcy of what scientists like to call the "para-normal" and to avoid sliding from reflective skepticism into the closed-mind cynicism that renders, in the words of scientist Theodosius Dobzhansky ..... no evidence powerful enough to force acceptance of a conclusion that is emotionally distasteful. Nothing sets you to thinking more about what science sees as the weird things of life than coming face-to-face with your own mortality.

Now that I have more than ten years seniority with my miracle, I have learned a little more about them. I have deepened my sense that what science says are "natural laws" are sometimes suspended in ways and for reasons we may never fully understand. I am even more convinced of the mana or special energy of certain sacred places in the world such as Maui and the Hawaiian Islands that can serve as the perfect ecology for the miraculous. While I offer some scientific explanations that may in part help explain why miracles happen, I have learned that miracles are far from some quantum jiggling of subatomic particles. I have learned that nature has a propensity for the unexpected majestic happening, and like most of those who have experienced miracles, I can see more than ever that these events take place around me every day.

As my miracle and I mature together, I have come to realize that nature keeps reminding us with events like rainbows that there is something immensely greater and wiser than ourselves and that we do not have to choose between science and spirituality. We can celebrate the powerful insights of science without sacrificing spirituality's more subtle sacred wisdom. Rainbows need not be seen as less miraculous because science can explain them as images created by sunlight refracting through tiny water droplets. The "wow" of the sudden appearance of evidence of a unique sun and water union is not diminished just because we understand the "how". Miracle makers allow ourselves to be struck dumb with wonder at rainbows and nature's benevolent willingness to give us a peek at the grandeur of life. Scientists may know how rainbows form, but miracle makers understand why they are given to us -- heavenly reminders of the miraculous.

My medical colleagues warned that all my talk about miracles might be creating false hope in those who are so urgently in need of healing. Even one of the doctors who had helped save my life with a bone marrow transplant criticized me in the media for "being on shaky scientific ground" when I wrote about my miracle. He and other doctors warned that false hope could be damaging to patients. But the best ground for good science has always been "shaky" and agitated rather than firm and stagnant, for it is such soil that is the most fertile for the growth of new ideas.

More than ten years after medical science said I should have been dead, I am here today to report that I am even more hopeful about the fact that miracles happen and not at all concerned about raising false hope.

After a decade of learning and talking about miracles, I know now that my celebration of miracles is not creating false hope any more than telling patients to eat a healthy diet and exercise creates a false hope of a long life. Some who follow the recommendations for a perfect diet and compulsively jog each morning still die untimely deaths, but this does not mean the recommendations for healthy eating and exercise or the hope for a longer and healthier life were false. When it comes to healing, there is no such thing as "false" hope if embracing the possibility of impossibilities can provide some comfort and loving energy when we and those who love us need it the most. When I was dying, I was not too choosy about the nature of hope as long as I could find some.

The sweet gentleness of island living seems conducive to one of the most important ingredients in making miracles, seeming to have the time and more willingness to experience a deep and profound loving connection -- an aloha -- for a higher power [ke Akua], the land ['diva], and all of those with whom we live ['ohana] and who have ever lived [ancestors, or 'aumakua]. Miracles are not bound by time or restricted to any one place, but Maui represents an example of one place where people seem a little more willing to let things happen than to work fast to make them happen, and that's when miracles seem most likely to occur. They tend to "happen" to those willing to wait for them and more through "being" than "doing."

After the first edition of this book was published, there was one question I was asked more than any other. "Why you?" As I watched so many of my fellow patients die, I experienced a nagging "miracle guilt." I asked, Why me? many times in the aftermath of my miracle and felt that I should have tried harder to transfer my miracle to others. As silly as it may seem, I felt that I had somehow taken too selfishly from the cosmic store of miracles and felt a deepening kuleana, enduring responsibility, to share all I could with as many as I could about the little I knew about miracles.

People wrote me from around the world wanting to know why I was blessed with a miracle while others did not seem to be. I have been repeatedly asked, "Is there a 'miracle-prone' personality?"' "How did you do it?" "How can I make a miracle?" I used to avoid trying to answer these questions and I am still not sure what to say. Even after a decade, I am still relatively new at dealing with miracles, humbled by the experience, and certainly no expert. I do know, however, that having a positive attitude, never giving up, and thinking positive thoughts do not always seem related to the miracles I have witnessed.

The doctors and nurses who cared for me described me as a terrible patient. Despite the fact that I had written many books about health and healing, I often had a miserable and self-pitying attitude. I am now embarrassed at how I allowed my pain and suffering to make me so often insensitive to those trying to help me and how seldom I expressed my deepest appreciation to my wife and family who were under such stress and still helped fashion my miracle. I was not courageous, I was willing to give up numerous times, and I often had very negative and angry thoughts about why such terrible things were happening to me. Nonetheless, the nurses who helped me make my miracle said they often did see a "miracle proneness" in me that they had noted in others who had experienced miracle healings.

This subtle miracle proneness may be related to the late psychologist and researcher Brendan O'Regan's observations in the little town of Medjugorje in the former Yugoslavia. A vision of the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to a group of children there, and people began to come for healing. Dr. O'Regan writes of what he calls "an interesting psychological profile" of those experiencing miracles at Medjugorje. He said he noted in those who experienced a miracle...... a sad, faraway look ... a kind of yearning for something, the search for a memory, the need for an all-embracing experience of love of a kind not yet found."

Nurses see miracles every day, so they are the ones in the hospital that tend to be most comfortable with the miraculous. My nurses told me that they could see certain patients with a "miracle look in their eyes."

One of the intensive care nurses talked to me about miracles as I lay dying on the respirator in intensive care. As she held my trembling hand, she said softly, "I can see it in your eyes. I can see it in the eyes of some of my sickest patients, and I see it in your eyes and your wife's eyes, too. I see that "miracle-ready" look. It's a kind of sad, pensive, faraway look as if you still have much work to be done in life and are just waiting for a chance to continue it. You look like you're being delayed but not stopped. Maybe it's just me, but a lot of us see it. It's as if you are waiting for something mysterious to happen, some kind of blessing or permission to let you go back to do the work you must do. You look like others who had the searching eyes of someone open to a miracle and needing one to get back to what you must do."

Maybe Maui helped promote my miracle because it brought out my sense of the miraculous, the same sense that rests within all of us, as a kind of built-in miracle readiness. Maybe I experienced a miracle because I was helped by my 'ohana to remain open-hearted, open-minded, and ready for a miracle so that I could return to the work I still had to do in my life.

Rather than making a miracle, I think it may have been those loving partners in my miracle, my Hawaiian 'ohana, nurses, doctors, and ancestors who somehow instilled the faith that kept me miracle-ready.

We all get sick our way and we all heal our way. A positive attitude, visualization, and imagery may set the stage for miracles for those strong enough to maintain these practices at the worst of times. For others, embracing who and how they are no matter how unsaintly, afraid, angry, and even resentful may be in some unique way the prelude to their miracle. Miracles are enchanted mysteries, and to trivialize them by assigning certain behaviors, mental states, or specific steps for their attainment is to diminish the sacredness of miracles. Even worse, such prescriptions may lead to blame of the patient unable to be positive or for not getting well. Being open, remaining in search of the memory imprint of loving work yet to be done, and being available to miracles in any way that feels legitimately honest and right for you at any given time may help create a more fertile ground for the miraculous.

Ten years after the miracle that allowed me to continue to work, love, and enjoy every day in paradise, I remain overwhelmed not just that miracles happen but that they are so abundant and keep popping up all around us. As Einstein wrote, "There are two ways to live one's life -- as if nothing is a miracle, or as if everything is." Perhaps the greatest gift from my Maui miracle is that it taught me to live every day sharing with those I love the fact that everything and everyone is miraculous.

The word "miracle" is derived from the Latin verb mirare -- to wonder or marvel. By this definition a miracle can be any person, place, thing, or event that provokes wonder or awe. I have learned that a miracle is much, much more than a remarkable recovery. From a simple starfish to a cure from cancer, it is something marvelous that happens that causes us to wonder and take note of the gifts of life, the enchantment of living, and the possibilities of our immortal spiritual survival. Miracles may ultimately be nature's spiritual nudge reminding us to remain amazed, and enraptured by what she has done and can do.

Wonder, said Aristotle, is the beginning of wisdom. Imagination, said Einstein, is more important than knowledge. The ultimate gift of my Maui miracle was a rekindling of my wonder at the way such a harsh and chaotic universe can suddenly behave in such benevolent ways. My miracle broadened and deepened my imagination of what life and death mean, and perhaps that is what miracles are for. 
This article is excerpted from Miracle in Maui, Ó 2001, by Paul Pearsall, Ph.D.. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Inner Ocean Publishing.

Return to the section on miracles by clicking here>miracles

© Copyright Philip A. Pecorino 2001. All Rights reserved.

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