Guitar face

Some patrons say the image is a reflection of “Bobby” Worden, who headed up the crew that remodeled the new Kerrville branch of Hill Country Music. Photo by Mike Witte

Jan 27, 2010–You’ve heard of Jesus in a tortilla, and a crucifix in a baked potato. If you hurry to Hill Country Music store, you will see a demon in a guitar.

“Phil, I might have a story for you.” It was Ron Sutton, manager of the local music outlet, calling. “We have a face in a guitar.”


He explained. “I had a customer in here playing a guitar the other day, and he flipped it to put it up. I thought, what did I just see? So after he left, I went to look at it and sure enough…:

There, in the wood grain on the back of the Hohner acoustic 6-string guitar, was the clear image of a face. Some – like on-site luthier Glenn Stevens – swear it is the face of Satan. He is loathe to get near it.

As Sutton showed me the image – which, as you can see from the photo is very distinct – a customer piped up, “If that was Jesus, you’d have people lined up out the door.”

As it is, folks are stopping in for a closer look. Neighboring shopkeepers are even bringing their customers by for a peek.

No one knows how the image got there, but they aver it was not an accident. That line of guitars is made from ovangkol, a hardwood native to West Africa. The wood is coveted for instruments because of its bright, lively sound and similarity to mahogany and walnut. But looking at other guitars of the same model, none had a wood grain remotely similar to that of the “demon guitar.”

Stevens, who in his career of building and repairing stringed instruments, knows wood. He explained the process of putting a back on the instrument involves “book matching,” a process where you essential split and unfold a single piece of wood.

“It was intentional – the builder definitely knew what he was doing,” Stevens surmised. “When you book match wood, even in a factory, you are looking for interesting pieces to make your job more interesting. You actually use a mirror to find matches.”

There is another angle to the story. When the staff first saw the image, someone pointed out that it bore a striking resemblance to “Bobby,” head guy of the crew that remodeled the Kerrville location. The photo is submitted for your judgment – with no reflection on any other similarities. (“He’s actually a very nice guy!” said Mike Witte, who took the photo.)

The instrument was built in China, so no one will ever know the true secret of the instrument’s origin. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t going to take advantage of it. Sutton may put it for sale on E-Bay, or the store may keep it as a customer attraction. For now, Sutton plans to rotate it for display between the Fredericksburg and Kerrville stores. The list price was $368, but Sutton is not sure any amount of money will buy it now. His sentiments are not all commercial.

“I kind of hate to sell it,” he laughed. “I’m kind of attached to it.”