It’s a common trope in today’s horror genre to feature the more frightening aspects of religion, particularly when it comes to nuns and exorcisms, as a means to explore our fears.
Across the world, there are hordes of legends of religious spirits, including that of the “Faceless Nun.” While largely an urban legend, sightings of a mysterious Faceless Nun (nothing but flesh or darkness where your eyes, nose, and mouth should be) have in fact been reported across the globe. Anything without a face is creepy enough, but add a splash of religious attire and it’s enough to melt every spine on the block.
In Italy, three faceless nuns of the Torba Monastery are said to wander the countryside due to an unfinished mural. The three faces, perfect ovals, were never completed.
Art plays a factor in other areas as well. It’s commonly believed the original Faceless Nun was an artist in the midst of a self-portrait (a selfie made with paint and patience) who was called to service without the time to paint her facial features. She died an unfortunate death before she could ever complete the painting and, to this day, her spirit is cursed to walk the earth with no face. A 1940 account placed this tale overseas in France, while another focuses on St. Mary-of-the-Woods in Indiana at around the same time.
The Terra Haute, IN, legend states the nun perished of an illness before she could complete her self-portrait. Numerous accounts of a ghostly nun have persisted in Catholic women’s college, including one from a nun who encountered a woman sobbing in the college’s church. When she approached the pew where the woman sat, she realized she too was a nun, but not just any ordinary nun. This one had no face.
While the account of the college’s faceless nun has been disputed by someone who was there at the time, stories of a faceless nun have only grown over the years. My new city, Tucson, is even thought to be the home of a faceless nun – perhaps the same faceless nun but likely another wandering soul with no smile.
The Cathedral of Saint Augustine, at 192 South Stone Avenue, is the seat for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tucson. Built in 1858, the church has changed a great deal since its meager two-room beginnings. Like most old buildings, it has its share of ghost stories, including its very own tale of the Faceless Nun. There the apparition has been seen levitating above the ground in the courtyard, at least according to a local ghost guide. From there the tale has only grown.
Is there a Faceless Nun or other famous apparition where you live?