Jeff Haynes  /  AFP - Getty Images file
Before officials painted over where a vandal had struck, people would often visit this Chicago underpass to see what many felt showed an image of the Virgin Mary.
updated 5/6/2005 12:29:30 PM ET 2005-05-06T16:29:30

A man was arrested for allegedly scrawling “Big Lie” over a stain on an expressway underpass that some believed was an image of the Virgin Mary.

Authorities then painted over the stain because it had been defaced, police spokesman David Banks said Friday.

Authorities charged Victor Gonzalez, 37, of Chicago with criminal damage to state supported property, a misdemeanor. Witnesses had seen him painting the image, Banks said. A telephone listing for Gonzalez could not immediately be found.

Banks said witnesses told police they saw a man on a bicycle writing on the image around 11:35 p.m. Thursday.

Police then directed the Illinois Department of Transportation to paint over the image because of security concerns, IDOT spokesman Matt Vanover said. Video: 'Big lie' arrest

Hundreds of people had flocked to the underpass since last month to see the image. Many prayed and placed flowers and candles near the stain.

IDOT has said the stain was likely the result of salt run-off.

Worldwide, people have been drawn to images believed to resemble the Virgin Mary seen on windows, fence posts and walls.

Among the best-known in the United States was an image seen in office windows in Clearwater, Fla. Within weeks, a half million people had been to the site. Glass experts believe the image was created by a chemical reaction and corrosion of the metallic elements in the glass coating, but they could not explain why it took the shape it did. The windows were broken last year.

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