This Man Has a Rare Disorder That Makes Every Face Seem ‘Demonic’

By: Ben Campbell | Published: Apr 04, 2024

A man from Tennessee has a rare neurological condition that forces his brain to add terrifying demonic features to people’s faces.


Victor Sharrah is one of the very few people in the world who suffers from the rare disorder. But, with his help, researchers are finally beginning to better understand it. 

Clarksville Resident's Life Changes Forever

Victor Sharrah is a 59-year-old resident of Clarksville, Tennessee. He lived a relatively normal life until November 2020, when it changed forever. 

Photograph taken of downtown Clarksville, Tennessee, during a somewhat afternoon

Source: Wikimedia

One morning, he awoke to a terrifying experience; the faces of everyone he came into contact with had demonic features, per NBC News

Tennessee Man Begins Seeing Demonic Faces

According to Sharrah, people’s faces appeared distorted, with the mouth, ears, and nose stretched backward.

An image of a demonic-looking woman as she screams

Source: The Lancet Journal

They also had deep groves in their chins, cheeks, and foreheads, all of which frightened the Tennessee man.

Clarksville Resident Wakes Up in a Demonic World

Speaking with NBC News, Sharrah said, “My first thought was I woke up in a demon world.”

An image of a man in a white shirt as he wakes up for the day

Source: Freepik

He went on to express how terrifying the first moments were, saying, “You can’t imagine how scary it was.”

A Friend Helps Sharrah to Diagnose Problem

Sharrah immediately turned to a friend who worked with visually impaired people for advice. 

A man is pictured getting his eyes tested by a doctor in a white coat

Source: Freepik

Upon relating to his friend what he was experiencing, they suggested he may be suffering from prosopometamorphopsia, or PMO, per NDTV.

Sharrah Diagnosed With PMO

Sharrah’s friend later advised him to go to the hospital. After several tests, he was diagnosed with PMO, an extremely rare neurological condition. 

Four images show what sufferers of PMO see when they look at a face

Source: The Lancet Journal

The disorder forces people to experience distortions in the faces of everyone they come into contact with, which gives them demonic features. 


The Terrifying Rare Neurological Condition

Speaking on the symptoms of PMO, Sharrah told NDTV, “When I’m looking at a person, that face is moving, it’s talking, it’s gesturing. So it really increases the effect of it.”

A man in a red jumper is pictured pulling on his hair in a frightened state

Source: Freepik

However, what’s unusual about Sharrah’s disorder is that the distorted faces only appear in person. But not when he looks at faces on the internet or in photographs. 


Sufferers of PMO

Cases of PMO are extremely rare, with less than 100 people diagnosed with the disorder. 

An image of a man as a doctor performs tests on his head at the hospital

Source: Freepik

Researchers believe it is caused by problems in the part of the brain that handles facial processing. Symptoms can last from a few days to a few weeks and, in some cases, years. 


How Did Sharrah Get PMO?

Those looking into Sharrah’s case came up with two possible solutions for a diagnosis so late in life. Four months before he began seeing the demonic faces, he suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning.

Several doctors are pictured inspecting the test results of a patent

Source: Freepik

Doctors believe this may have brought on the disorder. Another option goes back over 10 years when Sharrah fell and hit his head fairly hard on the ground, which left behind scarring on his brain.


Researchers Visualize Demonic Faces for the First Time

Sharrah agreed to participate in a small experiment with researchers, in which they sketched out what someone with PMO saw for the first time. 

A man is pictured editing photos on his laptop as he enjoys a coffee

Source: Freepik

Researchers at Dartmouth College created several digital representations based on Sharrah’s descriptions before posting them online


How Did the Researchers Create the Drawings?

In order to create realistic representations of what Sharrah was experiencing, the researchers used live participants and pictures. 

Images depicting what those who suffer from PMO see during their everyday life

Source: The Lancet Journal

They instructed Sharrah to compare the photograph to the person standing beside them before using image-editing software to produce the images based on Sharrah’s description. 


More People Reach Out with Symptoms of PMO

According to Antônio Mello, a Ph.D. student and the study’s lead author, numerous other people suffering from PMO symptoms reached out. 

A patient is pictured explaining the symptoms of his illness to a doctor

Source: Freepik

Some people “have seen face distortions since they remember, since they were a child,” Mello said. “For them, at least, it’s impossible to find a single event that was responsible.”