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Regardless of an individual editor's personal belief, the face on mars has not been proven to be a natural formation, just as it has not been proven to be artificial. A case exists for both POV's. An objective observer should realize that until and unless the formation is ascertained and accepted as natural, it cannot serve as an example of Pareidolia, and the image thereof has no place on this page for that purpose. Surely, if it is an example you want, (and not to promote some ideology), then a cloud formation or a grilled cheese sandwich would better serve. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:13, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

While the face on Mars may not have been proven to be anything in particular we know with a high enough degree of certainty that the likelihood of it being artificial is extremely, vanishingly small. It surely is a fantastic example of pareidolia and is used on the page describing that phenomenon. In any case this isn't the talk page for that word. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:26, 10 November 2013 (UTC)

Removed POV and (admittedly funny) witticisms, expanded slightly.

I'm going to remove simulacrum here and apophenia on simulacrum's sight, I don't see any connection between the two. Maprovonsha172 16:32, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

I'm also going to remove the link, because I don't see its relevance. Are we saying this is an instance of apophenia? It might be. Then again, it doesn't seem to be our place to condemn any Princton Unversity research as apophenic nonsense (which would, if nothing else, violate the NPOV). Maprovonsha172 16:58, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

Hi Maprovonsha172,

I agree and I have to say, I fail to see the relevance of the bit on the PEAR research at Princeton. This is about well-controlled parapsychological experiments with objective measures, no subjective seeing of patterns in unpatterned stimuli. Therefore, if there's no objections, I'd like to remove it. - Vaughan 20:22, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

Added last paragraph relating apophenia to other pattern-establishing cognitive phenomena such as narrativization, hindsight bias, interpretation - JAGL 21:30, 14 November 2005 (UTC)

  • apophenia was mentioned in the davinci code movie i think, worth mentioning? Spencerk 03:41, 24 May 2006 (UTC)
Not sure. How exactly is it mentioned? Btw, The German entry on apophenia has a nice image as an example for this phenomenon. Worth uploading? Mabuse 15:04, 24 May 2006 (UTC)

people, did you see that apophenia was made in 1958??? 1+9+5+8=23?!?!? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 21:26, 23 April 2008 (UTC)

I removed the quote due to the fact that it seemed to refer more specifically to a self-fulfilling prophecy in industrial psychology research. Apophenia, I believe, refers not to a misinterpretation of intentionally gathered information but rather a meaningful interpretation of random or randomly-gathered data. I also added "meaningful" to the first sentence to describe the tendency to add meaning to otherwise meaningless information. Chachilongbow (talk) 07:20, 26 June 2010 (UTC)

Apophenia vs. Pareidolia[edit]

In neither the apophenia article nor the pareidolia article is there any discussion of the difference between the two. They seem just about identical in meaning. If anyone knows of a difference, it would be a valuable addition to either or both entries.

Eggsyntax 02:04, 20 August 2006 (UTC)

To the best of my knowlege, pareidolia is a visual/aesthetic and typically religious experience. Seeing the face of Mary on a tortilla, for example, or seeing Christ on the Shroud of Turin.
Apophenia, on the other hand, is a cognitive experience, such as the perception of mysterious connections between things which, in themselves, are not necessarily mysterious. The well-known "Paul (of the Beatles) is Dead" phenomenon, for example, or the "23 Enigma".
In short, pareidolia is "seeing weird stuff when there's nothing there"; apophenia is "making weird connections between stuff that is not causally, and sometimes not even meaningfully, connected."-- 15:39, 28 August 2006 (UTC)

Regarding the paragraph:

"Pareidolia is a type of apophenia involving the finding of images or sounds in random stimuli. For example, hearing a ringing phone whilst taking a shower. The noise produced by the running water gives a random background from which the patterned sound of a ringing phone might be 'produced'.

The section "gives a random background from which the sound..." is a bit awkward, and since it's a given that the running water is random, and that a ringing phone is a patterned sound, I'd suggest the third sentence might read more clearly as "White Noise produced by the sound of running water, can be perceived by the person in the shower as a ringing phone." pakaal 07:06, 12 October 2008 (UTC)

The article is inaccurate in saying that pareidolia is a type of apophenia. According to Merriam-Webster, [pareidolia]( is "the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful, image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern <The human brain is optimized to recognize faces, which could also explain why we are so good at picking out meaningful shapes in random patterns. This phenomenon, pareidolia, could be responsible for a host of otherwise unexplained sightings, such as the face of the Virgin Mary on a toasted cheese sandwich.—New Scientist, 24 Dec. 2011>", whereas [apophenia]( has a definitively cognitive element in which the pattern perceived is inferred to be significantly meaningful: "the tendency to perceive a connection or meaningful pattern between unrelated or random things (such as objects or ideas) <The promise of the Data Age is that the truth really is in there, somewhere. But our age has a curse, too: apophenia, the tendency to see patterns that may or may not exist.—Daniel Conover, The Post and Courier (Charleston, South Carolina), 30 Aug. 2004>" If I see the face of the Devil in the smoke of a burning tenement building, that is simple pareidolia — the false perception of a meaningful pattern in random data — whereas if I interpret this perception as a sign from Satan that he is still alive and active in the world, I have then crossed the line into apophenia. HarmonicSphere 16:35, 07 September 2016 (UTC)


I can't find a reliable etymology of this word on the net, but I really really would like to see one! V-Man737 23:36, 3 January 2007 (UTC)

Well, apophenia isn't in the OED, but I think its construction from Greek is pretty straightforward:
απο (a preposition meaning "off, away from") + φαίνω (a verb meaning "display" or "appear", as in the word "phenomenon")
Kingnosis 16:29, 18 July 2007 (UTC)

Clustering Illusion[edit]

Pareidolia is rightly included in this section, but the Clustering illusion, which I think is perhaps the most straightforward example of apophenia, is not. Does anyone know why? Should I just write it in? Should the two articles perhaps be merged, or shouldn't this one at least mention clustering and link to it? (talk) 04:34, 18 March 2008 (UTC)

Please don't use Rorschach images[edit]

As a psychologist who administers the Rorschach inkblot test, I want to express my concern about the use of one of the official Rorschach cards as the main picture for this and many other pages (relating to subliminal thought). These cards are not to be displayed publicly in any way because they obstruct the validity of the test. If someone takes this test after having previously seen even one of the images elsewhere, their protocol is spoiled (For this test was normed with individuals who were seeing the cards for the first time, thus eliciting a "fresh" response). If an image of an inkblot must be used, there are plenty of Inkblots that aren't part of the ten card Rorschach inkblot test. 23:58, 1 February 2007 (UTC) Dr. Atlas 23:58, 1 February 2007 (UTC)

Which of course reveals that for most educated people, the Rorschach inkblot test is invalidated, since the images are widely available and often presented in the popular press. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:59, 7 September 2013 (UTC)

See Talk:Pareidolia#Rorschach inkblots shouldn't be public. Λυδαcιτγ 00:59, 2 February 2007 (UTC)


I'm not entirely sure citing the Principedia Discordia is appropriate. While the book is amusing, it is hardly a scholarly work, and the movement is more a parody than a religion. Izuko (talk) 16:24, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

I concur, any objections to it's removal? Oorang (talk) 19:49, 18 June 2008 (UTC)

Removed Section as no objections voiced. Oorang (talk) 18:08, 10 September 2008 (UTC)

See also: Religion[edit]

Why is "religion" listed as a see also link - this appears to imply that religion is essentially a trick of the mind which links events and generates a meaning (which in turn implies an atheist bias). Since apophenia is not mentioned in the "religion" page, I'd suggest there is no reason for this link to be here. Linking to something relating to the perception of religious symbols (seeing Jesus in grilled cheese, trees etc.) would be more appropriate, if that is the intended meaning?

I'm no psychologist, so if there is a valid reason for this to be here based on cited academic research then my mistake. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:28, 13 July 2008 (UTC)

Not believing in anything is impartial, i.e. agnosticism. Belief in any religion or things like walking under ladders causing bad luck is all based on perception and is subjective - there is no empiracally verifiable evidence for ANYTHING supernatural, there are only beliefs based on perception. Otherwise everyone would believe in one religion (the one that's verifiable). This doesn't make their beliefs invalid but it does make them apophenic. groovygower (talk) 02:06, 3 January 2013 (UTC)
Good, but better: Neither disbelieving nor believing in anything is impartial, i.e. agnosticism. Not believing in the existence of a thing that can be neither proven to exist nor proven not to exist may indeed be the most convenient "default", but that merely makes it the shortest leap of faith to attempt. It is the very act of claiming to have an answer that sets all other positions at opposition to actual agnosticism. agnosticism: accept no substitutes. Druthulhu (talk) 12:39, 26 November 2013 (UTC)


Small point, why explicity is it mentioned the tendency for "men" to accept psuedoscience? is there any reference to support this or should it be amended to "people"? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:47, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

I second that. There needs to be a reference. It's an assumption. The article has a referencing problem template. I wonder if it should have a NPOV disputed template. Anyone. Please remind me ... can this be put on if anything at all is disputed on the talk page ? DJ Barney (talk) 21:28, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

Statistics and Detection[edit]

Type I and II errors are not unambiguous in designation. It depends upon what constitutes the null hypothesis. Moreover, the notion of a "hypothesis test" is somewhat moldy, since there can be degrees of likelihood based upon evidence. That all said, it is true that the null hypothesis is typically taken to mean whether or not a set of data are explainable by suitably modeled chance events. If data can be explained within that frame, the use of additional parameters is unnecessary, and possibly harmful. This used to be known as parsimony or Occam's Razor, but it is better described today in terms of the Akaike Information Criterion and similar measures.

Pop Culture[edit]

Regarding the reference to a Justice League Unlimited episode making a reference to Watchmen, (1) the citation appears to be broken, and (2) I haven't seen the episode, but given that Watchmen's Rorschach was created as a deliberately thinly-veiled pastiche of the (now) DC owned character The Question, is Justice League really referencing Watchmen, or just referencing itself? DustFormsWords (talk) 06:21, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

Autistic spectrum disorders[edit]

While there exist exmaples of autistic savants capable of enhanced pattern recognition, ascribing such capabilities to the autistic spectrum itself strikes this wikipedian as being either hyperbole or mysticism. This is an area of contentious debate in the neuroscience community, and any such assertion should come with citations; otherwise does more long-term harm than good, both to neuroscience and to the autistic spectrum community. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:05, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

That paragraph was deleted today.
I had a quick look for citations, but could only find this in the few minutes I have available. Noting here, for future reference. -- Quiddity (talk) 22:08, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

Not encyclopedic or particularly notable[edit]

This article is about one idea by one individual. It does not strive to connect it to the context of related ideas in the field, nor does it counterbalance the idea with criticisms. It doesn't grapple with the fact that Conrad may be mistaken: that what he has labeled misperceptions may constitute valid, individual or cultural, alternative perceptions.
Furthermore, if enough people have subscribed to this concept to establish it as a notable phenomenon important to one of the dozens of schools of psychology, then it must be possible to substantiate that notability by quoting and referencing supporting authorities.
"Meaningless data" is a very vague phrase which cannot help us to understand apophenia. (Data which is 'meaningless' — a very relative concept itself —in one period in history may prove to be profound in another; data which is 'meaningless' to the man on the street might be very meaningful to a network traffic analyst.) If anyone takes Conrad seriously, then he must have created a better definition than this one.
As it stands the article reads like a pop psych magazine article about a logical positivist of the mind. Twang (talk) 07:07, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

I basically agree with your criticisms about the article, but I think the topic Apophenia is notable enough - even if it would just describe a concept that once had some weight but now is outdated. Lova Falk talk 12:49, 2 June 2010 (UTC)

The Kingdom of God Is Within a Potato?[edit]

After billions of potatoes have been cut open and then eaten, I'd be surprised if an "image of the Holy Cross" didn't appear in one. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:15, 15 August 2010 (UTC)

I once found the face of Rasputin in the wear pattern on the bottom of my shoe.
Druthulhu (talk) 20:26, 1 December 2013 (UTC)

File:Mary pancake 2.jpg Nominated for Deletion[edit]

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Face recognition[edit]

It is claimed in the article that the human brain does a lot of "processing" in order to memorize and recall "hundreds or thousands of different individuals". There are a lot of strange implications associated with this statement in its current wording. Would someone that knows something about facial recognition care to correct it?Jimjamjak (talk) 11:09, 11 November 2011 (UTC)

who attributed what to who?[edit]

I'm baffled by this discreption - what did Conrad do, what did Brugger do, and who is the "who" in the phrase "... who defined it as ..." - is that Conrad or Brugger? The sources are offline and in German - does anybody else understand it? It seems to say that Conrad described something and Brugger misunderstood it and gave this misunderstood characteristic the name "apophenia" ... but if that's the case, then Conrad had nothing whatsoever to do with defining "apophenia". And in that case, "misnomer" is the wrong word, because it implies that "apophenia" actually defines something else, but if it was made up by Conrad or Brugger to describe the state, it's not a misnomer ...... is it? I'm baffled!

The term is a misnomer incorrectly attributed to Klaus Conrad[1] by Peter Brugger,[2] who defined it as the "unmotivated seeing of connections" accompanied by a "specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness", but it has come to represent the human tendency to seek patterns in random information in general (such as with gambling), paranormal phenomena, and religion.[3]

- DavidWBrooks (talk) 02:13, 13 March 2013 (UTC)

"The term is a misnomer incorrectly attributed to Klaus Conrad[1] by Peter Brugger, who defined it as...". I read this as saying that 1) "apophenia" is a misnomer, 2) Conrad incorrectly attributed it to Brugger, and 3) Brugger defined it as follows. I cannot speak for the intent of the author, however.
The prefix "apo-" has the meanings of "from" and "separate", while I cannot find any proper etymology for the suffix "-phenia". Its only other usage within my awareness is in "Quadrophenia", a made-up word which is the title of a rock opera by the Who, and whose name is said to be derived from both the word "schizophrenia" and the word "quadraphonic". If the intended meaning of the word is to be taken as "from the mind" then "apophrenia" would be the technically proper word to use. Perhaps this is the misnomer refered to.
Druthulhu (talk) 14:35, 27 November 2013 (UTC)
It seems that Brugger wrote in German, so he didn't coin any English word. How to translate a newly invented word from one language to another is pretty much up to the first translator, there is no single correct solution. And when a word undergoes semantic shift, that doesn't make it a "bastardized" "misnomer".-- (talk) 19:05, 21 September 2014 (UTC)
A couple years later, I have re-arranged the section to (hopefully) be clearer. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 17:51, 7 September 2016 (UTC)

NPOV tag[edit]

It strikes me that this article has some problems with NPOV. Certainly, given the subject, it is tempting to cite various pseudoscientific, superstitious, and paranormal as examples of seeing meaningful patterns in random data. However, since many people subscribe to such beliefs, I think they should be handled sensitively and be supplied with ample citations. For example, the following portion is completely loaded:

A common example of perceived but non-existent patterns are paranormal sightings, including sightings of ghosts, Unidentified Flying Objects, cryptozoology, etc.

The phrase "UFO" refers to any airborn object that cannot be identified, often denoting very real phenomenon such as sprites. Similarly, a handful of cryptozoological cryptids have been confirmed historically. To dismiss these as empirically insignificant is not only disrespectful of credible claims within these controversial fields, but it is furthermore an inaccurate means of depicting them. If a subject is truly a fringe theory of pseudoscience and this is stated in a reliable and relevant source, so be it; I'm not suggesting we capsize WP:FRINGE/PS. But if no such citation exists, then perhaps it is better to omit it from the article completely rather than provide original commentary. The religious and divination sections of the article are not any better. Surely "picking random passages from a holy text" or the I Ching example of "tossed sticks" are examples of finding higher meaning through random data -- is that not the point? Describing these practises thus serve only to trivialize them from the standpoint of Western science. I feel that providing explanations of their psychospiritual and cognitive dimensions, if sources can be found to support such information, would be vastly more informative and less belittling. The "religious manifestations" comment on pareidolia describe these phenomena as "a more extreme example" -- says who? Regardless of how ridiculous it may seem to find Jesus's visage in your jar of Marmite, that does not render the article invulnerable to WP:ATT. Memtgs (talk | contribs) @ 19:34, 26-08-2013 UTC 19:34, 26 August 2013 (UTC)

gambling and paranormal phenomena: religion also?[edit]

This article has good citations linking gambling and paranormal phenomena to the definition of apophenia.[1] Pareidolia has a good reference to link this phenomena to apophenia.[2] This article has no reference that a general belief in religion is apophenia. jmcw (talk) 20:00, 17 November 2013 (UTC)

Proposal to reduce the scope of this article[edit]

I propose that we improve this article by restricting the scope. Pareidolia, conspiracy theories and gambling require no large consensus of world view. Divination, synchronicity, supernaturalism and paranormality are more difficult to incorporate. Exactly these subject areas have the most 'citation needed' tags. I propose removing 'Paranormal phenomena', 'Divination' and 'Synchronicity' sections and the NPOV tag. jmcw (talk) 11:31, 26 November 2013 (UTC)

(I have slightly edited the following, at the time of my next entry, for clarity.)
Hallucinations (such as Pareidolia) can certainly be indicative of abnormal psychology but, approached with a proper understanding of the dream state, need take no more threatening form than an audible symphony of subconscious musical (et al) composition.
Conspiracy theories can range from the utterly outlandish ("the Lincoln assassination was originally plotted out by Benjamin Franklin and a young Robert Malthus, using a crystal ball and Nostradamus'-style invocations to the King of the Efreeti"), to merely unbelievable ("Area 51 was built upon research into alien tech recovered from the alleged Roswell crash in 1947, rather than being the expansion of the top secret aircraft programs that actually did produce whatever, if anything, crashed there"), to actually not too unbelievable ("Myer Lanskey had both Jack and Bobby killed because they'd had Marilyn killed for repeating their pillow talk - genius move leaving the patsy wondering where his getaway car was, since a dead lone gunman makes a much neater ending than does one shallow grave among many in the desert and no answers for the nation").
These may seem to simply graduate the degrees of lesser and greater in a spectrum of rediculosity. But consider: if 20 years ago some smelly probable-schizophrenic in the street told you that the CDC of the USA was deliberately exposing unwitting Filipino men to syphilis-infected prostitutes so that they could track them as the disease spread through their bodies untreated, would that have gone into your "that is possible" file? or into your "delusional conspiracy theorist" file? Of course we must keep in mind at the same time that believing that Pareidolia is a sign that the CIA (or Illuminati or local Elks Club) are beaming thoughts into your head is a common symptom of paranoid schizophrenia. But to dismiss all conspiracy theories as indicative of mental illness is a folly that leaves society at the mercy of the rich, powerful and idealogous.
As for Gambling superstitions: they are simply one form of superstition, but the nature of games of chance lends itself especially well to the seeing of patterns. The psychological tendencies of gamblers have their own unique forms, but ultimately they believe in them in ways that are in even more ways essentially the same as those of shamans, yogis, rabbis, hierophants and wizards, would-be or otherwise. It may be easier, and certainly more socially acceptable, to dismiss the beliefs of gamblers than to do so those of established religions, but in principle it is no different.
In all aspects of "trans-logical" thought delineated in the description of the concept of Apophenia there is an essential lack of accord between two oft-competing paradigms: the faithful and mystical vs. the logical and soley physicalistic. Apophenia seems to be viewed as a concept lifted whole from the latter paradigm. The tacit view contained therein is that any sense that might seem to be made by events that would appear, to a mind constrained by "proven science only", to be entirely random occurrences with no causal connection must therefor be wholly illusory, and thus, if regarded as having any practical value, as having given root to delusion. Conversely, the tacit view of the mystical is that however much we know and think that we know, there are things that we cannot, or at least cannot yet, explain to the satisfaction of a physically scientific purist.
Ultimately the question once again seems to come down to one of this: is the physical all, or is there more? As, again, the tacit assumption that comes part and parcel to the concept of Apophenia is that anything purported to be evidence of something "more" always seems to depend greatly on subjective interpretation and satisfy very weakly, if ever, demands of proof sufficient to the standards of the physical sciences. For example: in backwards musical playback and in EVP recordings (two other aspects that could use MORE depth in said article) it seems to me to come down to some people hearing "something" that they can't explain but that they find bizarrely cogent, while others hear noise and declare that the others are clearly suffering from, well, Apophenia, if not Pareidolia as well.
My suggestion: make it BIGGER, but either i) "cover the controversy" or ii) at least "bracket" it by pointing out, at the outset of the article, that the apparent bias in discussing the concept accrues from the fact that its very usage would tend to assume an already polarized world-view in which all mysticism is delusion on one level or another.
Druthulhu (talk) 14:05, 26 November 2013 (UTC)
I have no objection to i) "cover the controversy" or ii) at least "bracket" the controversy. I stumble over a Wikipedia prejudice: the requirement for Reliable sources. This requirement is easier to fulfill for the physical than for the metaphysical. jmcw (talk) 14:38, 26 November 2013 (UTC)
Would reliable sources be needed to add a note regarding context to the otherwise simplicity of the article's one-line opening paragraph? or at least to add the word "apparently" before the word "random" in that sentence?
As far as reducing the scope, the concerns expressed seem to involve the arrangement of elements of the mystical and conspiracy theorizing paradigms in an order from the most unbelievable and unaccepted to the more plausible and the most accepted. I believe that in fullness of coverage of the subject matter it would be a disservice to limit it to those elements that represent more "obvious" examples of delusional thinking. The paradigm that holds that all mystical, and thus traditionally religious, beliefs are at some level delusional is in itself a valid belief system and to limit the discussion of Apophenia to its implications for only the most "out there" beliefs would be censorship.
But to express these issues without unconfronted bias would seem to require more discussion of the inherent bias for the soley-physically objective paradigm that is implied by the subject and apparent in the current form of the article, and perhaps as well of the gradiation of beliefs from the most thought of as delusional to those most commonly accepted and least conflicting with scientific understanding. It should also be noted that the existence of Apophenia in itself is not incompatible with most mystical paradigms.
Sadly I need quite a bit more practice in Writing for Wiki and such additions will need proper support in order to produce an article without need of any flags. All that I am suggesting is that acknowledging the nature of the conflict briefly in the opening paragraph, or at least using the words "apparently random" there, would represent a small step in the right direction.
Druthulhu (talk) 11:28, 27 November 2013 (UTC)
A reliable source that discussed apophenia and belief systems would be enough. However, just as this article references pareidolia, I think you need to create an article about the graduation of beliefs from the most thought of as delusional to those most commonly accepted and least conflicting with scientific understanding. A 'super' article would establish the context of the various beliefs systems and their bearing on apophenia. jmcw (talk) 11:51, 27 November 2013 (UTC)
I have looked around for an appropriate 'Parent' article. There appears to be a lot of conflict in the Wikipedia world concerning reality. Belief system and Pseudoscience seem quite hostile to non-scientific belief systems. Cognitive sciences seems not hostile but quite scientific in orientation. Demarcation problem directly addresses the definitions. World view#Assessment and comparison of different worldviews might be the best place to introduce an article about the range of belief systems. Good luck! jmcw (talk) 12:29, 27 November 2013 (UTC)
And [3] might be a good place to continue the search. jmcw (talk) 12:39, 27 November 2013 (UTC)


I thought the constellations were a mneumonic device for navigation. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Drrake (talkcontribs) 18:52, 10 May 2014 (UTC)

opening sentence does not make sense[edit]

How can we say the information is meaningless if people are perceiving meaning in it? Rebroad (talk) 22:20, 10 September 2015 (UTC)

Because they are mistaken. - DavidWBrooks (talk) 23:56, 10 September 2015 (UTC)

Cartoon face in Pareidolia section[edit]

I removed File:fakeface.svg from the pareidolia section. It is not clear to me if the term applies to images that were intentionally created to evoke a face. Even if it does, it is probably not a good example to use on the apophenia page, which is strictly about seeing patterns in randomness. --ESP (talk) 14:20, 18 January 2018 (UTC)

ESP (talk) 14:20, 18 January 2018 (UTC)