HuffPo have reported that during the creation of a historic gallery by Belfast Live it was noticed that a photo taken in 1900 of some Belfast mill workers shows a disembodied hand resting on the shoulder of one of the women.
Sure enough, if you look at the woman seated on the right of the first row of four she has a hand resting upon her shoulder that appears to have no owner. So, is this a ghostly manifestation? Thing from The Addams Family dropping in to say hi? Or does she literally have a disembodied hand sitting there?
As a paranormal researcher of some experience I can tell you that when it comes to photographs nothing is ever what it seems. Many people believe that photo manipulation was born when the modern computer was created but it pre-dates Photoshop by a long, long time. In fact, as soon as the science of photography was perfected for general use people began to manipulate the photographs they were taking.
Usually this was to correct over-exposures and similar issues by fitting two photographic plates together to create one image, other times this would be for comedic or artistic effect. Photograph manipulation was particularly popular among advertising agencies and also, more controversially, for political propaganda – the most noted case of this being Stalin having opponents erased from or added into photos.
People also faked ghostly apparitions in their photographs by creating purposeful double exposures which would result in ghostly figures appearing in the photograph alongside the medium or the customer (who was often hoping to contact a deceased loved one.) American spirit photographer William Mumler is by far the most famous employer of this method of trickery, having been caught out and tried in court for fraud.
The mysterious hand in the photo of the Belfast mill workers is most likely the result of photo manipulation. I suspect there were other people in the photo who were edited out, with the hand accidentally being left in place – or proving too difficult to erase cleanly. Today we would call this sort of mistake a “photoshop fail” and there are whole web galleries devoted to left behind limbs. Here are some examples:
Firstly, the video is from 2009 and is being reported in 2015 so we can’t rely on the information being reported. Secondly, in the video someone is filming an exhibit on the SS Great Britain which is now based in Bristol. At the start of the video we are told that the voice of a child can be heard saying “shut up” at the 18 second mark and we are told that no child is present at the time of recording. However, when the video starts you can hear what sounds like children talking in the background, as well as the sounds of people moving around the old ship. I can hear someone say something that sounds like “shut up” in a whisper-like voice but there’s nothing about it that sounds child-like to me. It’s probably just someone who was behind the camera speaking without those focussing on what is being filmed realising it.
On The Hermione Granger Scale of Interesting this story is: Boring.
The Welwyn Hatfield Times reports that ‘Vicky Mills was lying on her sofa when her grandson took a picture of her on his phone last Friday. It was only when then looked at it that they noticed the figure. Standing in the doorway to the front room is the figure of what appears to be a woman.’
Oh yes. Another Smartphone Ghost hoax. Pretty unoriginal by now though, to be honest. But wait…
‘Vicky said: “It’s so clear, down to the hand on the arm of the sofa. “I know you can get apps to create these effects but the phone had nothing like that on it.”’
I’ll believe that when I see the exif data from the photo. Until then, if it looks like a smartphone hoax, smells like a smartphone hoax and barks like a smartphone hoax… know what I’m saying?
On The Hermione Granger Scale of Interesting this story is: tedious.
According to the Daily Fail ‘A photographer has been left spooked after capturing a chilling image on her camera of what appeared to be a ghostly figure standing on an empty floor by a bar. And to make the image more eerie, Felicity Cole, from Tasmania, was working at a spiritual, wellbeing, and positive energy-themed event.’
The photo looks like the camera was simply set on long exposure and someone walked through the room and that’s what we’re seeing. Only… ‘Ms Cole told Daily Mail Australia her camera was set to a slow shutter speed – on a slow exposure – but what she captured has left everyone baffled. ‘On a slow exposure, if a person walked in front of the camera, they would look streamlined and it would show the whole body,’ Ms Cole told Daily Mail Australia. ‘But you can only see what seems to be legs and no upper cut.”
Erm, that happens sometimes but it depends on the settings used. Long/time exposure photography involves a long-duration shutter speed which helps capture stationary elements clearly and sharply while blurring moving elements. If someone moved through a photo set-up quickly you’d should expect to see something like the photo above, whereas if the moving elements of the photo were constant (stars in the night sky or water running over rocks) they’d be more consistent while still being distorted in appearance.
On The Hermione Granger Scale of Interesting this story is: You tried.
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Frankly? No. I can see what looks like a squished up face but years of watching Ghost Webcams as a teenager tells me that this is the pixellation of the photo causing an illusion. This is called the Pareidolia effect.
I really like the Galleries of Justice Museum in Nottingham. I visited years ago prior to delivering my first ever talk to Skeptics in the Pub in the city. I was one of two or three visitors in the whole museum (it was quite late in the day) and the atmosphere was like nothing I’ve experienced anywhere else. It was a sombre experience and it’s easy to see how walking around the building in the dark would make you think any little noise or movement could be a ghost.
In the article staff from the Museum say they receive up to ten photos a year from visitors who think they’ve captured a ghost. They include one taken just outside of the hanging exhibition (left) that looks like a figure, but it’s hard to tell what it could be. An exhbit or display? Another person? A shadow?
One thing I know for sure is that the hanging exhibition properly frightened me during my visit. I was completely alone and walked into the room just as a mannequin was noisily dropped from a mock gallows as a recreation of the hanging process. I can remember running out of the room because I hadn’t expected to see someone moving or the noise because I knew I was alone in that section. I suspected at the time that this was motion activated. It doesn’t surprise me that people take photos in this area or in this location and see ghosts or strange figures in them because I fully suspect that we, as visitors to such a sombre Museum, are primed to see such things here without realising it and both photos above are from this within this display. After my fright I was on edge for the rest of my time in the museum, so much so that when I crossed paths with another living human I got yet another fright.
This “oddity” has apparently promoted the owner of this restaurant to call in ghost hunters but I’d like to be a bit more proactive about it and would like to suggest an alternative title for this news story above the video above:
Footage reveals insect crawling on lens of CCTV camera bizarrely pointed directly at light source
The Birmingham Mail broke the news and the Daily Star followed up with a front page story: The Black-Eyed child ghost has returned to Cannock’s Chase, taking up residence once again with the Hell Hounds, a Werewolf, a Pig-man (human-pig hybrid), Bigfoot, Alien Big Cats, Aliens, and the plethora of phantoms and ghosts said to roam the area.
…excessive, don’t you think?
Lee Brickley is the investigator at the centre of this story because of a report he received from a member of the public who sighted what has been described as a black-eyed child. The woman wrote to Brickley
‘… I turned round and saw a girl stood behind me, no more than 10 years old, with her hands over her eyes, like she was waiting for a birthday cake. I asked if she was okay and if she had been the one screaming, she then put her arms down by her side and opened her eyes, which is when I saw they were completely black, no iris, no white, nothing. I jumped back and grabbed my daughter, when I looked again, the child was gone.’
The report of the sighting was received by Brickley prior to July 17th 2013. Why the current coverage of it is appearing over a year later I don’t know. I’m sure it’s nothing to do with Halloween being around the corner and having a book about the weird side of Cannock’s Chase to sell. I’m sure that’s purely a coincidence.
The image at the top of the report on Brickley’s website reads ‘I Want Your Soul’ accompanied by an eerie picture of a little girl with black eyes and there is no critical evaluation of what he has been told. For me, this is an indication of just how seriously we should take Brickley as an investigator. In the ten-or-so years that I’ve been researching paranormal sightings I have come into contact with many people who somehow blur the line between fiction and reality and allow what they see in horror storeis to come off of the page and influence what conclusions they find in real life. It’s hearing cats fighting and claiming “it’s Pipes the poltergeist” when it’s just cats, it’s receiving word of a sighting of this nature and claiming “they’re heeeee-re” when they’re not…
The acceptance of one eye-witness testimony as evidence of something paranormal is another indicator of just how seriously we should take Brickley as an investigator. Eye-witness testimony counts for nothing when it comes to alleged paranormal activity. As a paranormal researcher myself I turn down case after case because there isn’t enough to go on – just word of mouth.
In the case of the Black-eyed child ghost there is the testimony from just one person and who knows what may have happened there. The most obvious explanation for what they reported is that they’re making it up, but it would be unfair of me to say that was definitely what happened here. If this case had been reported to me I would have chalked it up as interesting and would have left it at that. We could speculate until the cows come home, but there’s little point because there’s hardly anything to go on…
…that didn’t stop Brickley though, and I’m not surprised. I reviewed his book when it first came out after he sent me a request asking that I do so and I found it a bitterly disappointing read. In the review that I wrote I noted that ‘as soon as I began to read the book any excitement I’d held before turned into slight disappointment because throughout, the quality of the book is often let down by Brickley’s biased narrative and irrational leaps of logic.’
The leaps of logic in the book are infuriating and so I wasn’t surprised to discover Brickley once again waving around an eye-witness report as evidence that Cannock’s Chase is paranormally interesting. I am disappointed though, especially considering the fact that The Daily Star have tried to link up this eye-witness account with the murders of three children in the area that took place in the 1960’s.
Their report states
‘In the late 1960’s, the remains of three young girls were found buried in woodland at Cannock Chase. Motor engineer Raymond Leslie Morris was found guilty of murdering Christina Ann Darby, seven, in 1969 and jailed for life. There was not enough evidence to convict him of the murder of Margaret Reynolds, six, and Diana Joy Tift, five.’
I like a good ghost story as much as the next person, but casually linking a sighting of this nature with the murders of children is crossing a line. It needlessly exploits a tragedy for the sake of making a story spookier and it creates the narrative that the souls of these children are not at rest which can be very distressing for surviving relates.
If anyone who knew the children that were killed should somehow discover this blog post I want to assure you that there is no good evidence that the supposed child ghost reported to Lee Brickley in the Cannock’s Chase area is anything to do with the girls. It is very unlikely that their spirits are wandering the area screaming, and I am sorry that people have suggested so. If you want to discuss this you can contact me and I am more than happy to talk.
There is little doubt that this news coverage will shift some books and attract legend-trippers to the Cannock’s Chase area, and good for them I say. Yet, there’s a tackiness about the stories that come out of the area that reek of a desperation to stay interesting. “Experts Baffled” cried the Daily Star, but I’m not quite sure they understand who qualifies as an expert in this subject. Perhaps if they’d actually read Brickley’s book they’d have reconsidered going to print?
The tagline on the Huff Paranormal website states ‘Pushing The Boundaries Of Spirit Communication’ so that you know from the start that they’re completely biased in their research which mainly involves the use of ghost box and similar pseudo-scientific ghost “communication” devices.
I visited their website specifically because it is claimed that the spirit of Robin Williams spoke to them via a ghost box.
… I was doing a spirit box session and heard his [Robin Williams] voice come through after I asked for him. For the following week I was able to connect with, what I feel, is the spirit of Robin. Of course, it may not be but some of this REALLY sounds like him, and the last message I was able to receive about the light and being with his Dad was very emotional for me when it came in. After that last message nothing else came in. That was it and for me it sounds like he has crossed over, and I feel 100% that he has.
This obviously raises a number of questions; what evidence supports the claim that these devices allow communication with the dead? Why would Robin Williams communicate with this guy in particular? Do ghost hunters have no shame these days?
Anyone who has attended one of my public talks will likely have seen my own ghost box and how it operates. No doubt you will have also seen me running around the room trying to pick up on a good radio reception for my demonstration because that is what the Ghost Box relies on. It is a pocket radio with a simple scanning function which searches through the airwaves until a broadcasting station is discovered. Most people would stop on that station and listen to it, but ghost hunters disable that function so that the device constantly scans through different stations. The resulting chatter and noise is allegedly used by spirits to communicate.
Essentially it is total baloney and ghost hunters are making sense out of random snippets of noise from various sources, seeking meaningful patterns where there are none. It isn’t at all surprising that while scanning through multiple broadcast channels these ghost hunters heard what sounded like Robin Williams because in the days following his death people were sharing his work left, right and centre in celebration of a man that touched a lot of people with his work… the problem is though that none of their “evidence” of communication with Williams’ sounds very much like him at all.
I’ve embedded the video below – you need to skip forward to eight minutes and thirty seconds in because the first eight and a half minutes are an at times defensive justification from the Huff Paranormal researcher. There are four alleged communications from Robin Williams and I’ve outlined them below for those who don’t want to watch the video.
Huff Paranormal: Are you there Robin? Alleged response: ‘We’re waiting’
Huff Paranormal: Are you with the angels Robin? Alleged response: ‘That’s up in heaven’, ‘Fuck’, ‘I must have got it wrong’
Huff Paranormal: Robin, if you’re there can you come through?’ Alleged response: ‘can Robin come?’ ‘I’m dead’
Alleged message: ‘there is light’, ‘I’m here with dad’
Suffice to say I don’t hear anything that much resembles what they are claiming the spirit of Robin Williams said to them and I’m not unconvinced that they’re hearing random sounds and are making sense out of them when there is none to be made.
It has to be said that there is something incredibly selfish abut making the tragic death of a well loved public figure into something that is all about you. I am no longer shocked at this sort of behaviour from pseudo-scientific ghost hunters but it does pull into question their agenda when in their video they talk of Robin Williams perhaps regretting taking his own life.
“maybe he is stating he got it wrong, as in, taking his own life or maybe what he is seeing o where he is…’
Nobody has the right to put that guilt or that regret on a dead person even if they have “four years of spirit work” to their name and are just speculating. That really crosses a line and I think they should be ashamed.
Perhaps their website tagline could be updated to ‘Pushing The Boundaries Of Spirit Communication And Taste’?
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