A few days ago I received a photo from a friend who was concerned that their might be an evil ghost haunting her house and threatening her young child. I urged her not to panic and asked that I get a chance to look at the photo before she spends any money on getting an exorcist to cleanse her house.
This is the original photo:
This photo was taken on a BlackBerry Curve, and looking at the image data I can see that there was no flash and a 35mm focal length (with no zoom).
My friend was concerned that the two white areas in the top of the photo were paranormal apparitions of some sort. They are quite obvious:
I decided to look at GhostBlob 1 first because it is the least ghosty of the two. This blob looks distinctly like a dried fluid trail to me. It starts out thick at the top and tapers to a rounded, narrow point. Like some kind of viscous fluid running down the back of the phone and drying on the lens.
It is clearly closer to the lens than anything else in the field of view as it appears to be laid over the shoe and tiled carpet. My guess is that this is dried spit from the mouth of a teething baby, but some people (like my husband) have suggested that it is dried semen. Both are consistent with the flow pattern, neither is paranormal.
GhostBlob 2 is obviously where the fun is in the photo. It looks like an upside-down person. Until you take a closer look at the individual components that give the blob that appearance. It looks like it has hair, eyebrows, a mouth, and is wearing a dark cloak.
Of course, the simplest explanation is that this is deliberate fraud and the image has been manipulated. Unfortunately I cannot test this as easily as I’d like to because my go-to website for these things, errorlevelanalysis.com, has been closed down.
Assuming that this is not a deliberate fraud, I think the ghostly appearance of GhostBlob 2 is caused by simple pareidolia.
If you compare the two blobs, you will see that they both have the shadow around the edge of the image. This is even more obvious in negative colour:
Now, the shadow is the white area surrounding each blob.
This shadow accounts for the appearance of hair and clothes on the ghost. The only thing left to distinguish it from the plain blob is the appearance of a face, and I think the explanation for this is just as mundane.
The carpet the little boy is sitting on has numerous dark lines showing where the fabric is folded slightly. Just below the ghost head is a prime example:
How can a few folds and shadows make a ghost? Easy. Your mind is deceptive and it’s favourite mark is you. The human brain is primed to see patterns in chaos and we often see faces in random noise like clouds, bathroom tiles and toast. This phenomenon is known as pareidolia.
So, that’s it. There is no reason to believe that this image is anything more than deception, whether conscious fraud, or trick of the mind. Like most of these images are.
Do you have any other ideas for what this might be? Let me know in the comments below.