Fact Check

1954 Canadian Devil's Head Banknote

Did a Canadian banknote display a grinning devil behind Queen Elizabeth?

Published Jan 19, 2007

Claim:   Canadian banknotes once included an image resembling a grinning devil behind Queen Elizabeth's ear.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, 2007]

My mother told me that when she was a child in Montreal, there was a French Canadian Artist that was commissioned to create an image of Queen Elizabeth II for the Canadian one dollar bill. But, being a French Canadian, and despising the English, he drew a hidden image of the devil using one side of the Queen's hair. (Akin to the image of a man hidden on the front of Camel cigarette packages).


Origins:   Currency is subject to printing error, and over the course of time a number of coins and banknotes containing misprints have found their way into circulation. Sometimes such misstrikes work to make those particular

Devil in the Queen's Hair

items of specie more valuable than they otherwise would have been (e.g., an error on the U.S. quarters honoring Wisconsin makes those coins more valuable than those honoring other states), but sometimes the end result is to slip apparently unusual or disturbing imagery into the pockets of the unsuspecting.

One case of an unusual image that did not involve a misprint occurred with a series of Canadian banknotes. George VI's death in 1952 placed his daughter Elizabeth onto the British throne and thus created the need to display a likeness of the new monarch on various monies throughout the British Commonwealth. In Canada, those new bank notes (issued in 1954) featured portraits of Elizabeth II, and it didn't take long for

Canadians to notice something unusual and even seemingly sinister about the young queen's hair as depicted on their money: a grinning demon appeared to be peering out from behind her ear.

This series of paper currency came to be known as the "Devil's Head" or "Devil's Face" series, and many people continued to see the Prince of Darkness in the Queen's tresses until 1956, when the Bank of Canada ordered bank note companies to modify the existing plates by darkening the highlights in Her Majesty's hair, so concealing Ol' Scratch from view.

Rumor asserted that the "demon" in the portrait was the work of an IRA member employed at the bank-note company, but the odd image's presence has never been proved the result of anything beyond coincidence.

Barbara "bad hair day" Mikkelson

Additional information:

    1954 Series   1954 Series   (Bank of Canada)

Last updated:   17 May 2011


    French, William.   "Subliminal Sex, from Rembrandt to Howard Johnson."

    The Globe and Mail.   1 May 1980.

    MacKie, John.   "Rare Bills Featured at Bank of Canada Auction."

    The Vancouver Sun.   12 November 1999   (p. A6).

    Scott, Susan.   "'Workhorse' Two-Dollar Bill Is Headed for Glue Factory."

    The [Montreal] Gazette.   26 January 1996   (p. C1).

    Edmonton Journal.   "Lots of Change in Battle Against Counterfeiters."

    The [Montreal] Gazette.   3 May 2003   (p. E4).