DANIA BEACH, Fla. – For true believers, religious symbolism can be found almost anywhere, but perhaps never in such an unlikely – or humble – venue: a plain, grilled cheese sandwich.

White bread from Publix and Land ‘O Lakes American cheese, slapped together and fried up for a Florida woman’s breakfast 10 years ago, produced what she believes is an image of the Virgin Mary.

“I think she protects me,” Diana Duyser said Tuesday. “I guess I’m lucky because of her – I’ve had a lot of wins at the casino.”

Duyser, 52, isn’t the only one who trusts in the crust.

Duyser put the sandwich up for sale last week, drawing bids as high as $22,000 before eBay pulled the item Sunday night. The page was viewed nearly 100,000 times before being taken down.

An e-mail Duyser received from eBay said the sandwich broke its policy, which “does not allow listings that are intended as jokes.” But Duyser, who has bought and sold items on eBay for two years, insisted this was not a laughing matter.

On Tuesday, the Web site allowed bidding to resume, with the top offer reaching over $16,000. Bidding is scheduled to end Nov. 22.

Duyser said she fixed the sandwich in the fall of 1994. No oil or butter, just fried up plain on the skillet. “I went to take a bite out of it, and then I saw this lady looking back at me,” she recounted. “I hollered for him,” she said, gesturing to her husband Greg. “It scared me at first.”

Indeed, the diagonally cut, thin sandwich bears the image of a full-faced woman whose cascading locks are formed by the charred bread.

Duyser, a non-practicing Baptist, said she’s “not religious, but I believe there’s something there.”

“It’s just eerie,” she added. “Why would she come to me?”

Duyser encased the sandwich in a plastic box, nestled it among cotton balls and kept it on a shelf. Over the years, she said, the sandwich has miraculously never decayed. “It doesn’t fall apart or crumble or anything,” she said.

This is not Duyser’s first venture into the realm of spirituality. In 1990, she sued the Broward County School Board, alleging a music teacher was a member of a satanic cult and was performing rituals on students. The case was dismissed.

“I don’t really want to talk about that,” she said Tuesday. “That was a long time ago.”

Recently, Duyser decided to sell her treasure via eBay, where she previously has done brisk business peddling T-shirts and other items. “I want to share her with the world,” she said. “I think she was meant to be seen. It’s time to pass her along.”

Three people, making six bids each, hiked up the sandwich’s value from $15,000 to $22,000. Sunday, however, eBay officials pulled the item from the site, thinking it was a joke.

Tuesday, they relented, eBay spokesman Hani Durzy said from the company’s San Jose, Calif., headquarters. The Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese Sandwich was once again on the block.

“In the grand scheme of things, it’s probably one of the more unusual things up on the site right now,” Durzy said.

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It spawned a number of spoofs:

-Virgin Mary in Spam.

-Burnt George W. Bush on Grilled Cheese.

-Make Your Own Virgin Mary Grilled Cheese (“solution to a life needing a miracle”).

-Virgin Mary’s Used Gum in Grilled Cheese.

-Virgin Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen in Grilled Cheese.

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Duyser said she has no plans for any profit she may realize from the sandwich. And anyway, there’s always the possibility of another visitation. “Maybe she’ll come to me in something else,” Duyser said.



(Staff researcher Tracy Ahringer contributed to this report.)



(c) 2004 South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Visit the Sun-Sentinel on the World Wide Web at http://www.sun-sentinel.com/

Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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PHOTO (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): RELIG-SANDWICH

AP-NY-11-16-04 2012EST



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