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Image at Dade City car dealership is Jesus, some say

Employee Randy Grice takes a picture of what some see as the image of Jesus. The office belongs to Darryl Collins, right.

LANCE ARAM ROTHSTEIN | Times

Employee Randy Grice takes a picture of what some see as the image of Jesus. The office belongs to Darryl Collins, right.

DADE CITY — The sales folks have a lot of down time these days at Jarrett Ford Lincoln Mercury. That's typical for a small town car dealership during a severe economic slump. What's unusual is how some workers are passing the time.

In the center of the used car sales manager's office door is a wood stain about 3 feet tall.

Some look at it and swear it's Jesus.

"Sometimes it gets so crazy that faith is all you've got left," said Chip Davis, who runs a paintless dent removal service that services Jarrett. Davis immediately noticed the anomaly and identified it as the central figure of Christianity.

"Anybody who's seen pictures of the burial cloth and image of Christ that's on that cloth — that same image is on that door," said Davis, who attends Cypress Meadows Community Church in Clearwater.

Davis snapped a photo of the door and put it on his Facebook page. He also sent a copy to the St. Petersburg Times.

"I recognized it as soon as I saw it," he said.

Carlos Castro, who has been at the dealership for 16 years, said some customers have taken notice.

"People come in and stop and look," he said. "A couple of them will do the sign of the cross." Castro recalled the discoloration on the front of the Ugly Duckling Car Rental building in Clearwater that drew worshipers who said it was the Virgin Mary. "It's not as defined as that one," he said.

"It looks a little bit like Sasquatch," piped up Ruth Johnson from the receptionist desk.

James Bauman Jr., who was getting an oil change, described it as "Christ in a Jedi outfit," then as a "Persian king."

He then said there was probably significance in the stain, just as there is in Barack Obama being president and Israel's conflict with Hamas.

"I believe the Rapture is just around the corner," he said.

Johnson studied the stain a bit more and said it looked like a caveman.

"We did say at one time it looked like Jesus," she said.

Darryl Collins, who occupies the office with the stained door, said Davis had pointed the stain out to him but he didn't really think much of it.

"I guess everybody has their own outlook on it," said Collins, 42. "It depends on what religion you're from."

Collins, who was raised a Baptist, said he's "not real big" on religion but called the door "pretty neat."

"I'm not swapping doors with anybody, I can tell you that."

The son of a carpenter, Collins said he had never seen anything like it. However, he knows wood has a mind of its own.

"Wood will stain differently in different places when (the same) stain is applied to it," he said.

No one knows that better than Stephen Iavarone, who teaches carpentry at F.K. Marchman Technical Education Center in New Port Richey.

Freshly cut lumber is green and turns brown as it dries out. Diseased trees also look different. Stain takes to wood differently in different spots because of varying moisture levels. Even a floor that has been covered with a carpet will change colors as it ages.

"A tree is an ever evolving thing," he said."

Cliff Martin, the dealership's general manager, said he only noticed the stain Thursday when someone pointed it out to him.

Martin said the door was put up about 10 years ago when the dealership was remodeled. He didn't know the name of the contractor.

"It looks like a man in a long robe," he said.

Martin, who is Catholic and attends Mass every Sunday, doesn't attach spiritual significance to the office door.

But he said maybe the stain would at least attract potential customers.

"I like to say we're blessed but we're not breaking any sales records, so maybe we're just blessed to be in business."

Fast facts

Faces seen by the faithful

Jesus and his mom have spent a lot of time in Florida, it seems. Here's a list of some places they were sighted:

Clearwater: Weeks before Christmas, in 1996, on a building then being leased by Ugly Duckling Car Rental company, an image of what looked like the Virgin Mary materialized. Overnight, the ordinary glass building at U.S. 19 near Drew Street became a mecca for both the Christian and the curious. In 2004, an 18-year-old man shattered the top of the window with a slingshot. He was sentenced to 10 days in jail and ordered to pay $1,200.

Spring Hill: In 1998, a couple swore they saw Jesus in the rust stains of a ventilation pipe on top of their home. A Tampa radio station, WFLZ 93.3, paid them $500 to take the pipe on a monthlong promotional tour. It ended up stolen from a Brandon movie theater only to mysteriously reappear seven months later.

Hollywood: In 2004, A woman claimed a grilled cheese sandwich she cooked 10 years earlier bore the image of the Virgin Mary. It sold on eBay for $28,000 to an online casino.

Shore Acres: In 2005, a Shore Acres woman said she saw the face of Jesus in a Lays potato chip.

Port St. Lucie: In 2007, a woman said she discerned the outline of Jesus and Mary in a mottled pancake and took it as a reassuring sign from her recently departed father. Her mother, the cook, thought it looked more like a bedouin and Santa Claus. An Alabama woman, who wanted a gag gift for her soldier husband about to be deployed to Iraq, bid $338 for it on eBay, only to have the deal fall through. Finally an Illinois man claimed it for $29.

Palm Beach: That same year, another woman told the Palm Beach Post that she found a seashell that looked like the Virgin Mary, her head tilted and hands in prayer. A week later, she said she was evicted and forced to move into the cabana behind her ex-husband's home. The move lead to a reconciliation, and a holistic doctor she found soon after helped with some medical woes she was suffering from.

Pinellas County: Last year, a Pinellas County granite distributor said he had a 7-by-7-foot slab of granite depicting an image of Jesus on the cross. It was in storage for two years until he showed it to an employee who immediately fell to her knees in tears. He tried to sell it on eBay. More than 800 people viewed it online and several called, but no one offered the starting bid of $4,999.99.

Image at Dade City car dealership is Jesus, some say 02/06/09 [Last modified: Friday, February 6, 2009 8:01pm]

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