Sunday, May 17, 2009
Iceman Did Not Keep His Cool
Remember back in 1997 when the Virgin Mary/Our Lady of Guadalupe was spotted on a tree in Salt Lake City? Neither do I. But news of Leslie Iceman’s attempt to burn down the tree offers us an excuse to stroll down memory lane. According to this ABC 4 story, Iceman, a homeless man, “used matches and cardboard to try and burn the platform that leads up to the spot where the image was.”
Apparently the Virgin’s form is no longer, thanks to a previous incident during which the “image was gouged out.” People still congregate at the tree, however, and the shrine remains. Facing charges of public intoxication and arson, there’s no speculation about why Iceman did what he did.
Above, the image as it once appeared and the image superimposed with an actual painting of Mary.
Here is a history of the tree written on the occasion of the visual manifestation’s tenth anniversary. The author, Richelle Hawks, was the evening manager of the New Age and paranormal section at a Salt Lake City Barnes & Noble back in 1997. One night a customer informed her that the form of Mary had appeared on this tree and after closing that night she and a friend went to check it out: “There was a ladder up against a tree as the woman described . . . The only light in this rundown, crack-house-infested neighborhood was a lone, flickering streetlamp. But, there did seem to be a darker, detailed oval figure in the smooth stump-which could pass even in the bad lighting for the traditional Virgin of Guadalupe. And it was wet – 'crying', as the woman described.”
Hawks relays the vague details of the initial discovery, credited to an anonymous city official “who was attending to or cutting the tree's broken limb, which had been damaged by lightning.” Of course, Salt Lake City’s Catholics are a minority, but an organized one that is predominately Latino and the shrine came to be. The piece goes on to draw parallel’s between these events and the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe. A bit of a stretch, but Hawks also posits that the tree actually led to the neighborhood’s gentrification.
How long before someone comes along and sees Mary in the charred residual of Leslie Iceman’s failed effort?