Man Suffers from Rare “Demonic Face Sydrome” That Distorts People’s Faces

A Tennessee man has been diagnosed with prosopometamorphopsia, or PMO, an extremely rare neurological disorder that makes other people’s faces appear severely distorted.

Imagine waking up one day and looking at the faces of your loved one only to discover that their ears, noses, and mouths are stretched back and deep grooves have appeared on their foreheads, cheeks, and chins. Then you go outside and see that everyone has this goblin-like look on their faces and you start to freak out. It sounds like a nightmare, but it’s one that 59-year-old Victor Sharrah has been experiencing since one November morning in 2020. He was only recently diagnosed with prosopometamorphopsia, or PMO, an extremely rare disorder that causes faces to appear distorted in shape, size and color.

Photo: Marvin Zi/Unsplash

The middle-aged truck driver had always had sharp eyesight, so he knew something was wrong on that fateful day in 2020 when he noticed a disfigured-looking man in his apartment. It turned out to be his roommate, but as he went outside, Sharrah realized everyone he looked at had this stretched, almost demonic look on their faces.

“My first thought was I woke up in a demon world,” Sharrah recalled about the day he started seeing demonic faces everywhere. “You can’t imagine how scary it was. “I was really freaking out at that point. I was going to go have myself committed.”


PMO is an ultra-rare disorder – only 75 cases have been recorded – so doctors don’t really know much about it. They know that it is frequently misdiagnosed as a psychiatric condition, but unlike schizophrenia, the facial distortion is not “accompanied by delusional beliefs about the identities of the people the patient encounters”. Victor Sharrah says he always recognizes the people he interacts with, despite their distorted faces, and he has learned to live with his rare condition.

In order to learn more about prosopometamorphopsia, scientists at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire worked with Sharrah to recreate the facial distortions he perceives, effectively allowing everyone to see the world through his eyes. They were able to do this because Victor only sees people’s faces distorted when he meets them in person, but not in photos or on TV. So the scientists showed him photos of various people while they were also there in real-time, so he could point out the differences to them.


PMO symptoms can last for days, weeks, even years, and unfortunately, in Victor’s case, he has been living with them for almost four years now. He still hopes that they will go away on their own in time, but he has also learned to live with them.

No one knows what causes PMO, but researchers believe that in Sharrah’s case, the visual distortions may be caused by a serious head injury he sustained when he was 43, or by the carbon monoxide poisoning he suffered four months before he started seeing demonic faces around him.