Update: The ghost group appears to have additional information that they have not yet released that indicates that this “image” is not paranormal, and we have confirmation on some details of Eva Gray’s death. See below.
Originally published 17-Jan-2017
An amateur research and investigation group (ARIG) in Maine is getting local attention for their claim that they captured pictures of a famous ghost in a local theater. [Addition: This story is not only a question of whether this is a ghost but a fundamental question about the legend of a death in the theater that has been long promoted. Investigators should search for the full, truthful story.]
The paranormal hunting group says it has captured an image of a ghost that haunts Biddeford’s City Theater in Maine.
City Theatre of Biddeford, Maine has this claim on their site:
On Halloween Eve, 1904 singer Eva Gray collapsed and died after her third encore of the song “Goodbye, Little Girl, Goodbye”. The beautiful 33 year old died backstage from heart failure with her 3 year old daughter present. Many since have referred to Eva as the theater’s resident “ghost”.
Source: History – City Theater Biddeford
Even though they are promoting the story as if the picture is the ghost of Eva Gray, the picture they captured is LESS than impressive and most certainly does not show a ghost in the form of a grown woman. Here is a comparison of the ghost picture and a media reporter.
I had to take a screen shot of the reporter when he was on the lowest step because his head was out of view if he was on the step shown occupied on the left. The angle of the camera is different too but the size comparison is clear. In the news report above, a theater worker also states the image is too small. So, I’m actually surprised that the ghost group didn’t claim this was the picture of a child ghost! They also claimed to have pictures of orbs and ghosts in other places in the theater. The members of EVP Paranormal of Maine reached out to the family members of Gray with this information, which is ethically questionable. The co-founder of the group, Caroline Mezoian, said this:
“I would never put my word on it that it’s 100 percent accurate. This is an abnormal science,” she said. “Can I say it’s definitely Eva Gray? I can’t say it’s definitely Eva Gray, but she looks gosh darn like it.”
I disagree, it doesn’t “look like it” at all. You could more plausibly have concluded it was a digital camera glitch. To suggest modern paranormal investigation is a science is absurd. It’s irresponsible for ghost teams like this to play pretend scientists to the press. Use of cameras and equipment are not “scientific”. Collecting fuzzy photos isn’t science. The entire process of paranormal research these days isn’t scientific in any sense. Such investigations by those with a preconceived notion about paranormal events are exercises in motivated reasoning. They see what they hope to see; they find what they wish to find. Any anomaly is interpreted in the framework of their belief system. In this case, it was clearly the objective to find evidence of the ghost of Eva Gray. So this anomaly was suitable to present in that framework.
Typically, theater “legends” are just that. They have no basis in fact although everyone thinks that they have been told for so long and everyone knows the story so it must be true. For example, John McCullough wasn’t killed at the National Theater in Washington DC even though they played up this fake murder/ghost story. And a little boy didn’t die at the KiMo theater in New Mexico. Every good theater has its ghosts, eh? I have asked the group if they actually have evidence of Eva’s death via their Facebook page (which is festooned with the media clips of this story). I will update the story if I receive a reply.
I get that ARIGs take great satisfaction in these investigations that appear to produce the results they want. But what a rational person would require in order to take this seriously would be a thorough investigation into all the reported cases of sightings or incidents, control photographs and descriptions of efforts to reproduce the photo, details of the investigations included when and how the photos were obtained, a large, analyzed collection of data, documentation that Eva Gray actually died there, evidence linking the sightings to Eva (and not some other person), and a clear argument for why “ghost” is the best explanation. They have none of that. Not even close. They appeal directly to the public, many of whom believe in ghosts. Because there is no plausible theory of ghosts, they can’t even begin to make a solid argument for “ghost” as a scientific conclusion. After hundreds of years of looking for solid evidence of ghosts, including efforts of some eminent scientific researchers, we have nothing more than doubtful fuzzy photos (that could be aliens or interdimensional beings just as sure as they could be spirits of the dead). This photo is not evidence of the ghost of Eva Gray or anything paranormal at all and should not be considered newsworthy.
But, you know, investigators really like the media attention and the theater surely loves their ghost story and will gladly promote it, and so the legend will live on.
Update 17-Jan-2017 Chris Romer passed me this piece from the local newspaper about the family visiting the theater in July of 2016. It still does not contain any reliable facts to show that the story of her performance and death in the theater are verified. It consists of only family stories which are not exactly trustworthy. I contacted the Maine group and they have totally skirted the question regarding the factual nature of the core story. They still insist the object is a ghost of someone.
Update 18-Jan-2017 On their Facebook page, EVP Paranormal of Maine (EVP-PM) replied to some questions from the (ever-Awesome) Kenny Biddle (our Go-To guy for ghost pic questions). They revealed that the photo is a screen shot of a still video from a DVR infrared system which means there is a video associated with it. Kenny asked if the video was to be released and EVP-PM said that it would be, soon. Kenny identified several immediate issues:
Since this is a still image from a video, my concern would be the timing this screen shot was taken. The video would show whether the anomaly we see was actually going up (or down) the stairs…or if it was floating about the scene randomly. This is extremely important when establishing proper context. Just based on the still image, proper context cannot be understood.
EVP-PM replied that the image disappears quickly, “Because its so fast … There then gone …
Though it would be great if she hung out for awhile, but that didn’t happen” which is to be expected if it was some glitch or out-of-focus object passing in front of the camera, like an insect. If it had shown more, they would probably have released a clip instead of focusing on the one or two anomalous screen captures. This makes the “photo” not a photo at all and increasingly more likely a video glitch.Unfortunately, this reveals EVP-PM’s questionable method of data collection (remember they mentioned this was a “science”). They promoted this anomaly to the public not only as a ghost, but a very specific ghost, without any suitable evidence, disregarding more likely conclusions. This is anomaly hunting at its finest. Kenny continues:
…do you understand that by doing it that way you are manipulating the data? If you have a video of an anomaly you (yourself) can’t explain, then in order to be properly reviewed and establish proper context of the event, the entire video needs to be viewed… not screenshots from a video. The viewers are not getting all of the information, only bits that are filtered out. We need all the available information to determine what this anomaly might be.
We did get some confirmation of the legend of Eva Gray, however. Thank goodness for crowd-sourcing! A very keen reader in the UK, Andrew Endersby, supplied evidence that Eva Gray did die in the theater in 1904. A news clipping from the Semi Weekly Reporter dated November 18, 1904, out of Council Bluffs, Iowa, reports on the tragic end to one of their former townsfolk, Miss Eva Meschendorf. She did die in her dressing room after becoming ill after the encore, which she sang beautifully. There is no mention of the exact date, though it was possible on October 31. There is also no mention of her daughter being present though that could have been overlooked.
So, at least it is confirmed that she did die there. Surely the ghost tales will continue.
But what of this image of her ghost? Kenny thinks the answer is very down to earth. After examining hundreds of photographs and having extensive experience in both ghost hunting and examining photo and video anomalies, Kenny thinks it might just be dust particles that have passed the lens during recording.
Just going off of the image, it appears to me as if a small batch of dust particles (dust bunnys) went across the view of the camera but close to the lens. It appears transparent because it’s out of focus. By pausing the video at this specific timestamp, it makes it appear as if the anomaly is on the stairs. However, when I enhance the image, it appears that almost half the anomaly is actually overlayed on the banister to the left (which is why that section of banister is highlighted). This is a common effect whenever particles are caught too close to the lens and illuminated by the camera light.
Even without viewing the video (which possibly won’t be released because it diminishes the case instead of enhancing it), what is clear is that this is not reasonable evidence for a ghost and the that EVP-PM stated as much was misleading. The dust particles hypothesis is a known phenomenon and also explains the other very similar looking translucent blob shown in the balcony image. Unfortunately, many people will assume that ARIGs are paranormal experts and will accept the unsupported conclusion that it’s proof of the paranormal. Some of us think that the truth is more important than propagating misinformation. So, this “ghost” image is busted.
Last Update 19-Jan-2017 Her daughter WAS in the audience as this news clip shows. So the “legend” of her last song is true. But the ghost story remains just wishful thinking.