After the eruption of the Calbuco volcano in Los Lagos, Chile, on Wednesday -- the first time in nearly four decades -- local residents snapped photos of a thick plume of smoke and ash ejected from the volcano, from which an eerie, giant human-like figure emerged, rising up into the sky god-like.
The mysterious form was captured by a local, Hariet Grunewald, 33, who lives in the town of Puerto Montt, in the vicinity of the erupting volcano.
She said she rushed outside and began taking photos when she heard the eruption, and as she snapped photos, the gigantic human-like figure appeared in the thick column of smoke and ash.
"When I heard the eruption I rushed to the window of my house and just started taking photos. And then I saw this man appear. At first I thought perhaps it was just me who could see him. But when I showed my friends and family they all agreed."
Some locals, awed by the god-like appearance of the column of superheated smoke and ash rising up 12 miles into the sky, declared it was a supernatural portent. They said it was a sign from God, and God's way of showing his displeasure with the people.
A resident of Puerto Montt, Manzur Olivo Candelaria, 54, said the human figure was unmistakable.
"Some dramatic photos came out of the eruption, but I didn't see any quite like this. You can clearly see a head and body and on the face is a pair of eyes and a nose. The eyes seem to be closed, maybe in fear or dread."
According to Juanma Ortiz Arredondo, 60, "An erupting volcano is God's way of showing he is unhappy. This smoke man is probably a message -- that he is keeping a watch on us and our behavior."
In the folklore and mythology of Chileans, volcanoes have a supernatural origin. It is believed that they are members of ancient royal families locked in battle with the evil forces.
However, skeptics will scoff at the notion that the human-like figure is a sign of God's displeasure and attribute the appearance of towering god-like form to the psychological phenomenon called pareidolia, which refers to the tendency of the pattern-recognition system of the human brain to perceive significant forms in otherwise random stimuli and pattern.
The Chilean authorities declared a state of emergency after the eruption, ordering evacuation of about 4,000 people in an area 12 miles (20 kilometers) around the site of the eruption.