Gone fishing and caught a ghost in a selfie? Yep, fishy.

The latest viral “ghost” photo is, again, making the rounds and roping in many who think you can prove an extraordinary claim with just a photo. You can’t. For expert paranormal photo debunking, we go to Kenny Biddle who reveals the more plausible explanations for this photo and why it looks very fishy. [Comments in brackets are mine – Editor]

Jessica Ogletree, writes on her Facebook page:

FB FRIENDS CHECK THIS OUT! This picture was taken by my 13 year old daughter earlier today at Paradise (the fishing place) in Tifton, Ga. Notice my son Kolton in the background and then notice the gentleman standing to his right!!! Ya’ll this gentleman was NOT with them today and there was no one else at these back ponds where they were fishing! The only people there today were Haley, Kolton, and their grandparents Dennis and Vera Baldree. Haley was going back through her pictures and saw this and needless to say freaked out and called me lol! I personally think it’s pretty cool because today is Kolton’s birthday and he caught the biggest fish he’s ever caught! It looks like the man is happy for him! *Please feel free to share”

Kenny explains [edited from original post]:

Just going by the description here, we can point out a few items that make us question the validity of the image. First, I find it odd that a teenager would take a selfie and NOT check to see how it turned out right away. Second, from the image, we can see that the teenager was present, as was a man in the bed of the truck. We are given the impression that there were ONLY four people in that area at the time the photo was taken. Two things should be considered when thinking about that quote: It’s coming second-hand from someone that was not there (the mother) and the teenager that took the image didn’t look at it until some time later. It’s not mentioned if anyone else was aware that she was taking that selfie at that time (her brother was not looking in the direction of the camera), so none of them can actually confirm that there was “no one else at these back ponds”since I doubt anyone was keeping a record of the environmental conditions throughout the day.

We don’t have an established timeline of how long after the picture was taken that Haley actually started looking through them. An article from Fox4kc.com says, “When Haley got home, she went through her pictures, saw the photo and showed her mother”. If she waited until she got home, this could be anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. We simply don’t know how much time passed.  Unfortunately, kids have played tricks on their parents many times. [Maybe when really bored stuck sitting in a vehicle with nothing much to do.]  I’ve personally been berated for suggesting that someone’s child was playing a prank on them even after the “ghost” had been found in a ghost app. There are hundreds of ghost apps one can download to their smartphone, and the majority are available for free. Many allow you to take a photo of anyone and turn them into a transparent “ghost”then insert them into a different photo – *POOF* a “ghost” that click-bait websites buy into. [It’s quite possible that the mother really believes it’s a ghost and posted it to the dismay of Haley. We can’t tell.]

I’m bothered by the last line of the Facebook post, “please feel free to share”. This struck me as odd. Instead of asking for what it was or what might possibly have caused this, she immediately gives the impression that it is a ghost and tells everyone to share it on social media. I’m inclined to wonder if they’re looking for attention rather than any logical reasons since the profile is private but this image post was made public.

However, the image itself is what we should focus on since it is what is being presented.

My main issue with this image is the lighting of the alleged “ghost” – it’s completely wrong. The sun is to our right when viewing the image, you can see how it falls onto the shirt, hat, and back of the head of the guy in the bed of the truck. This is also evident from the tool box in the back and how the raised edge (hinges) on the right side is in shadow. We see sunlight on the toolbox all the way to the right side of the image and over the guy in the bed of the truck. The alleged ghost is all in shadow, not the slightest highlight on him. He should be completely illuminated by the sun, with a sharply defined shadow around his eyes due to the brim of his hat blocking the light. [Unless he’s made of some completely different substance than the people. Or it’s an inserted fake.]

Our cameras are designed to record visible light. For the alleged ghost to be “caught on camera” – it would have to reflect visible light. Therefore, the guy in the bed of the truck and the kid taking the selfie holding the phone less than two feet from her face would have seen him. Cameras are not magical objects. If this “ghost” was really there, it would have been visible to all.

Perspective also presents an issue here. The guy in green, Kolton, was apparently fixing the tackle box. Kolton’s positioning tells us that the box is in front of him (to our right). The alleged ghost, by size and position, seems to be standing right where the tackle box would be. This is a common mistake when amateurs insert extra images into a photo, perspective is misjudged.

Another issue is the blending that sticks out to any avid Photoshop user. Around the top left portion of the baseball cap and along the left shoulder (right side from our view) there is a softness along the edges that comes with several Photoshop tools such as Clone, Erase, Healing Brush, etc. Rather than remove/replace portions of an image using well-defined edges, softer tools use a fading edge. Many “ghost apps” also make use of these softer fading edges when users insert a “ghost” and some parts of it need to be erased in order to appear to be behind something. Often, the “ghosts” in such ghost app galleries already have areas that have been blended out…but not completely. This allows better identification when the same “ghost” is used in multiple images. The shoulder also has a smearing effect, which happens when one uses a blending brush too close to a defined edge.

In addition, when I enhanced the lighting there was a noticeable line that was between the alleged ghost, the green shirt, and the toolbox. This line is suspicious since it appears like a deliberate separation.

I’ve seen quite a few comments about the speckles – that the speckles on Kolton’s shadow and the alleged ghost proves it was really there. This is a misperception. We are looking through the glass of the rear window. If we look at the entire scene viewed through that window, we can see speckles all over the place – in the shadows, on the green shirt, in the trees, everywhere, meaning most likely the dust and dirt is on the window itself. 

Many comment that the alleged ghost is transparent, but I’m not so sure. Again, the rear window is dirty…and what we’re assuming is transparency, with the trees and such behind the figure, could actually be a combination of the dirt on the glass and pareidolia. The forest background is a chaotic scene – lots of different shades of green, brown, black, yellow, etc. The dirt on the window glass blends in quite well, making it look as if the bushes, leaves, tree limbs, etc. are showing through the figure. [Also, added images can have manipulated transparency settings.] The quality of the image doesn’t allow for a decent close-up view of the figure in question – the image quickly becomes pixelated.

I also thought about the possibility that there is a real person standing there. That would mean that the four people who we are told were there are mistaken, or in on the joke. If there really was a man there, that would mean that these four people are all forgetting this visitor, or lying. (Just to be clear, I don’t think they’re all lying…maybe just one.)

Based on what we’ve been given, what we know of photography, and other details we can extract from the overall “picture,” my conclusion is that this was most likely fabricated, and picked up by news outlets as click-bait fodder. I see nothing that would lead me to believe that this is a ghost, spirit, apparition, or anything paranormal whatsoever.


Thanks, Kenny! Read the entire post with additional details on Kenny’s FB page. And check out my interview with him on the latest episode of 15 Credibility Street. 

Additional information or comments can be sent to editor@sharonahill.com. Follow on Twitter: @doubtfulnews