Mystery figure in photo, witnesses adamant no one was there

Mysterious photograph from Georgia is examined by expert in New Zealand. It’s likely no ghost, but has a very human and tech-based explanation. This explanation is further supported by a U.S. specialist in ghost photos.

Haunting image left for capital sleuths to probe |

A team of Wellington ghost-hunters have been left stumped after being asked to investigate an international mystery.

James Gilberd, leader and co-founder of Strange Occurrences – a Wellington-based paranormal unit that investigates haunted homes, historic buildings and photos – was sent a photo by a woman in the United States who believed she had captured the ghost of a soldier on camera.

Petra Brooks, from Georgia, took a photo of her granddaughter while waiting for July 4 fireworks to start. While deleting some photos, she found a picture of what she believed was a ghostly soldier figure.

Brooks passed the photo to Gilberd who is a photographer as well as paranormal investigator. Check out Gilberd’s blog post on the subject.

He ruled out PhotoShop but thought perhaps it was a real person walking past and a case of “selective attention” – where the person taking the photo doesn’t notice other things.

Photo: Petra Brooks

Photo: Petra Brooks

Doubtful News contacted researcher and paranormal photographic evidence specialist, Kenneth Biddle who agrees that this is not paranormal but notes many indications of a long exposure:

The photographer quoted in the article is on the right track. This is a slightly long exposure, most likely taken with a smartphone. If you take note of the child with the blue shirt to the immediate left of the man in the chair, he doesn’t have arms or a right shoulder – this is due to motion blur. The kid was walking towards the pole, swinging his arms. His arms are blurred out because the camera took too long taking the picture to freeze this motion. His shirt also has a “double exposure” look to it, which was caused by his body moving up and down as he walked. These same issues apply to the very alive man walking across the scene. His body is blurred more so because he was moving across the image, occupying different spaces as he moved. The boy was moving away from the camera, but basically occupying the same space in the image, which is why he isn’t so distorted.

The girl on the left of the image also has a distorted face, her right wrist is transparent, and her left forearm is blurred out.

There is a little silhouette effect going on as well, with the setting sun in the background, by which the man (our “ghost”) is surrounded, darkening his already blurred features.

Kenny also added that though the eyewitness testimony is that she does not remember anyone, it doesn’t change what other data the image tells us. She simply didn’t notice because she was focused on the kids. Gilberd conversed with the woman who contacted another person that was there who was also adamant that there was no man around, she states she would have noticed. Well, they don’t call it selective attention for nothing. We all miss things, it’s how our brains work. That is more likely the explanation than a ghost captured on camera.

This story is a great example of how we are left not knowing FOR SURE what happened, leaving that glimmer of hope for ghost believers. As such, photos can not be persuasive scientific evidence for ghosts.

Many, many so-called ghost photos are the result of people not really noticing what is in the frame at the time of the exposure and misinterpreting the resulting scene. And, accidental long exposures leave unexpected anomalies and artifacts in the image. If you don’t see this stuff every day and know how mistakes can happen, you may conclude your image is mysterious.

  19 comments for “Mystery figure in photo, witnesses adamant no one was there

  1. Bob Blaskiewicz
    August 9, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    That only happens if they are wearing a gorilla suit, Ms. So-Called-Skeptic!

  2. kitty
    August 9, 2014 at 6:31 PM

    Agreed! Whenever I’m watching children, especially near a road or traffic, the gorilla suit could walk right by me. The guy does look rather “spooky”, but also not very much like a soldier. IT’s interesting how stories “improve” from “This is a weird looking person I don’t remember being there” to associating it with a soldier because it was a 4th of July Parade. What kind of ghost would show up? A soldier!

  3. jean
    August 9, 2014 at 6:35 PM

    That looks VERY photoshopped. I use photoshop all the time and that looks like it’s had a liberal application of the blur tool.

  4. Tom
    August 10, 2014 at 2:10 AM

    Just a thought, the seated man does not appear to be looking at the children but to his right where the blurred figure would have come from before he was caught in motion on the picture. The blurred figures right hand is more in focus than the rest of the body probably as he first stopped and turned slightly to the man in the seat. The whole scene seems to be momentary and something probably soon forgotten.

  5. Angela
    August 10, 2014 at 9:53 AM

    I agree with Kenny about the eyewitness testimony. It is notoriously unreliable and why it needs so much corroboration in a court of law. It is VERY easy to be distracted, especially with kiddos around.

    However in the court of paranormal public opinion, the response is often “You weren’t there, you don’t know”.

  6. Sam
    August 10, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    Something often overlooked- what mechanism would allow cameras to capture ghosts when our eyes can’t?

  7. August 10, 2014 at 1:45 PM

    A point not well-explained by paranormalists – ghost energy manipulates equipment is nonsense that they buy into.

  8. Bill T.
    August 10, 2014 at 2:50 PM

    A possibly illuminating experiment:

    I had gotten a spoiler, so have no idea if I would have passed or not. Many readers of DN doubtless are aware of this.

  9. terry ellen benn
    August 10, 2014 at 4:39 PM

    It has to do with photons and the flash that is in our cameras. The flash reflectsboff the Orbs , making them visible.

  10. August 10, 2014 at 5:06 PM

    That in no way proves the existence of ghosts though. All it proves is that dust particles were in the air and were reflected by the flash.

  11. Arthur Maruyama
    August 10, 2014 at 8:44 PM

    There was another PERSON at the site: the wife of the blue-shirted man.

    Ms. Brooks, the photographer, claims that this woman was seated in “back” (on the tailgate?) of the SUV (the front end of which can be seen in the “ghost” picture above) and thus wasn’t in the picture, but consider that that woman is dark-haired and was wearing a dark grey shirt or jacket as can be seen in the other photo that Gilberd included at his site. While Ms. Brooks said that she “is a mama bear” when her children are concerned, would she have been so concerned or aware if her (I presume) friend was crossing in front of her?

    Others commenting on Gilberd’s site claim that the standing figure is barefoot (and that the wife was wearing shoes and socks as can be seen in that other photo), but as far as I can tell–and Ms. Brooks agrees–any such detail of the standing figure was blocked by the blue-shirted man. I THINK those others are claiming that the blur next to the blue-shirted man’s left foot was one of the feet of the standing figure, but I think that the blur is the long-exposure double of the blue-shirted man’s right foot that he moved from/to partially on top of his left one to/from its position that he incidentally held longer in this picture.

  12. Kenny Biddle
    August 10, 2014 at 10:57 PM

    The flash reflects off of dust particle in the air, that are within inches of the lens, causing the orb-effect. Small insects, hair from fingers or the head, snow, rain and fog/mist can also create this effect. Lens flare is also a cause of an orb-effect. Orbs are not, in any way, supporting evidence that orbs are related to ghosts.

  13. Brian
    August 10, 2014 at 11:29 PM

    Honestly? It looks like Matt Smith (Dr. Who).

  14. Andrew
    August 11, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    Another possibility is that due to the long exposure a tree that is in the background moved enough in the wind to be filled in as a solid mass, that happens to be in the shape of a person.

  15. Rich
    August 11, 2014 at 11:20 AM

    Which is, of course, very different from the kind of photons and reflectiveness our eyes use to see things.

  16. Rich
    August 11, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    ‘Buying into it’ is a key idea. This further quote from the photographer is from the Strange Occurrences blog post:

    “So you see, she confirmed my account that there was no one there outside of the children and her husband. She restored my faith because I truly was beginning to doubt myself, but I once again believe that the figure in the photo was not of this earth and I was lucky to get a shot of him. I also believe it’s a soldier and found it interesting that I caught a shot of him just as the announcer was listing all the foreign wars the U.S. fought in.”

    Faith, doubt, once again I believe, not of this earth, I also believe…

    That’s someone eager to grasp whatever confirmation she can get of what she *wants* to believe in.

  17. Arthur Maruyama
    August 11, 2014 at 11:43 AM

    Actually, no. That was the reason why Gilberd had posted that second shot that I mentioned and was taken later by Brooks that evening. Even though the sun had set in this later pic, the sky was still bright enough to show that there wasn’t a tree or anything else in the background that could have been the “ghost”.

  18. Tribeca Mike
    August 11, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    The real mystery in the photo is why this family is camped out in a parking lot.

  19. Bill T.
    August 13, 2014 at 10:00 AM

    Bob! I missed that fact. It should have been obvious. So much for my aspirations for critical thinking.

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