South Florida

‘Virgin Mary’ sandwich gets eBay nibbles

Diana Duyser of Hollywood shows a cheese sandwich with what she believes to be an image of the Virgin Mary on it. In 10 years, no mold has formed.
Diana Duyser of Hollywood shows a cheese sandwich with what she believes to be an image of the Virgin Mary on it. In 10 years, no mold has formed. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Half of a grilled cheese sandwich will stay perched on a nightstand in Diana Duyser's Hollywood bedroom, just like it has for the past 10 years.

Duyser, 52, sees an image of the Virgin Mary in that 10-year-old sandwich, an apparition she says gets stronger every year.

She put the grilled cheese up for auction on eBay last week, drawing bids as high as $22,000 before the online auction house pulled the item Sunday night. The grilled cheese page was viewed almost 100,000 times before being taken down.

An e-mail Duyser received from eBay said the sandwich broke eBay's policy, which "does not allow listings that are intended as jokes."

But Duyser, a work-at-home jewelry designer who has bought and sold items on eBay for two years, said the grilled cheese is anything but a joke.

"I take this very seriously," a distraught Duyser said Monday, hours before the online auction was supposed to have ended. "How could eBay do this to me?"

eBay spokesman Hani Durzy said he did not have enough information to comment specifically on Duyser's case, adding that the online auction house typically has about 29 million items on its site.

Duyser made the grilled cheese sandwich 10 years ago, took one bite and saw a face staring back at her from the Publix white bread.

Convinced it was an image of the Virgin Mary, Duyser put the sandwich in a clear plastic box with cotton balls and kept it on her nightstand to watch over her.

"It kind of scared the s-- out of me at first, but now that I realize how unique it is, I wanted to share it with the world," Duyser said.

Duyser, who is not Catholic, swears that she has never manipulated the sandwich in any way. In fact, she claims not to have even used butter or oil when she pan-seared the sandwich back in 1994.

What really gets her, though, is that the sandwich - made with American cheese and plain white bread - has never sprouted a spore of mold.

She considered pitching it to Ripley's Believe It or Not before deciding that eBay would be the best place to show it off.

And word sure got around.

Within hours of being put up for sale, the grilled cheese attracted thousands of eBay surfers to Duyser's page. As buzz began to spread on the Internet, it started popping up on online Web blogs.

Duyser watched with excitement as her $9.99 opening price climbed to $40, then $80, then $2,000, $15,000 and $22,000.

For half of a 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich. With a bite taken out of it.

"I never imagined it would get that high," Duyser said.

Before eBay pulled the plug on Duyser's auction, the top bidders got cold feet, retracting their multiple bids by claiming they clicked in error.

Despite her disappointment about having the auction shut down, Duyser, who does not consider herself religious, said she is happy to continue having the grilled cheese close to her.

"That's why I think it's Mary and not just some woman's face," Duyser said, adding that she feels secure while the sandwich is around. "She keeps us company."

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