Extraordinary claims. Ordinary investigations.

The second-best pareidolia… a hoax?

“Out of this World” did a good take on the Wem Town Hall “ghost” that we mentioned as an impressive example of pareidolia. They present videos of the actual fire, present the case and myth, and the latest information I had that analysis by Vernon Harrison on the negatives didn’t find any evidence of tampering. Thus, it seemed it was either a real ghost or a simulacrum.


But they went further and had the negative examined at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford. Keep reading to watch the second part and their surprising finds.

Will Stapp found that the highly detailed face of the girl has a series of horizontal lines, that are not seen elsewhere in the image. That clearly suggests some kind of photo trickery was used to insert the face, which was not captured in the same way as the rest of the scenery. Stapp suggests those horizontal lines are actually TV scan lines – the face was captured by photographing a TV set.

Indeed, even in the bad quality Youtube video version it’s possible to realize those horizontal lines that seem to be present only in the girl’s face. I captured a frame and enhanced the contrast to make it easier to see:


Note how the horizontal lines are not in the rails or in the door (?) on the left. I couldn’t see them, but they are there in the girl’s face.

A fellow had already told me before he thought the Wem Town Hall ghost photo was a hoax because there seems to be a bright spot on the left of the girl’s face, evidence of a botched manipulation, but as I read that analysis of the negatives by a serious photo expert didn’t find trickery, I thought it may have been just a coincidence and favored the pareidolia hypothesis.

“Out of this World” showed the original negatives and interviewed the original photographer, thus attributing these horizontal lines to bad prints or some Men in Black tampering with the image (as one famous Swiss contactee often claims when clear evidence of hoax is found in his photos) doesn’t seem very reasonable.

The photographer denied having hoaxed the image, and looked very nervous when confronted with the accusation. Of course, if he didn’t hoax it he would also have looked that way, I guess. Fact is, it seems there’s some damning evidence that the photo was somehow manipulated. Exactly how, by whom, and why, at least to me doesn’t matter that much. The photographer, if it was him, should be punished, but it’s been more than ten years now. The important thing would be to publicize these findings.

Could the best pareidolia image ever also be a hoax? In retrospect, and as some at the time noted, it could be. As far as I know it’s only an electronic image sent to the fellows at paranormal.about.com, and it could have been manipulated.

Even if it was a hoax, and contrary to the Wem Town Hall ghost/pareidolia/hoax, that one would have been a damn good job and impressive anyway.

[via Phantoms & Monsters]

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Posted in Ghosts | 21 comments

21 Comments so far

  1. Best Pareidolia Ever | forgetomori January 13th, 2009 10:45 pm

    […] New analysis suggests the Wem Town Hall ghost photograph is a hoax. Related PostsThe second-best pareidolia… a hoax? “Out of this World” did a good take on […]

  2. DrJon January 13th, 2009 11:58 pm

    Alternately, the “scan lines” could actually be tree rings in the end of a log.

    Alternatively, maybe ghosts also have scan lines… I’m no “ghost” expert, so I’ve no idea what might appear in a photo of one. ;}P>

  3. Pareidolia January 20th, 2009 7:44 pm

    I always thought that photo was just too good for… um… its own good.

  4. Mr. Guillotine January 20th, 2009 8:31 pm

    “The photographer, if it was him, should be punished, but it’s been more than ten years now.” Punished? What do you suggest in that regard? Beheading?

  5. Mori January 20th, 2009 11:26 pm

    Punished? What do you suggest in that regard? Beheading?

    I don’t know, seriously I was thinking that he may have violated some law, if he hoaxed the photo and sold it as authentic. But there could be more entertaining and poetic punishments, only perhaps not as drastic as beheading.

  6. alanborky January 27th, 2009 5:00 am

    Why is everybody talking about a disembodied head?

    Maybe it’s just me but I can clearly see the rest of her body and what may be her arms crossed at her waist, as she stands out on the pavement looking into the building, up towards the camera.

    As for the lines, they’re almost certainly artifacts of the software used to scan the image. If you look carefully, the same lines occur in parts of the handrail part of the railings and that part of the wall immediately below the handrail adjacent to the girl.

    That’s the problem with such software – it’s designed to make greater sense of whatever data’s available to it, and in this instance is probably struggling to differentiate where the further back girl, the not so far back wall, and the even closer handrail begin and end in relation to each other.

    That the girl was actually physically present at the time the picture was taken, (as opposed to being a spirit form or a hoaxed insert) is revealed by the fact that part of her reflection can be seen in the lower part of the door, (which is opening out onto the street, angled directly towards her).

  7. Jon March 19th, 2009 6:16 am

    Did you notice how rapidly the photographer was blinking?

    It seems a sure sign of stress (that he was about to be found a phony) if you ask me…

  8. Able Stanton June 25th, 2009 4:50 pm


  9. Laura July 31st, 2009 11:11 am

    I have studied some body language as part of a psychology degree. I’m by no means an expert but I would be confident that the photographer is lying and it is a hoax.

  10. Bill August 22nd, 2009 7:59 am

    perhaps a double exposed bit of film…
    i think that horizontal line looks kinda like a bit of a dress-an overhang like a trenchcoat-white with horizontal black strip where the material is cut/ends

  11. SV Podcast 022: Doctor Atlantis Interview December 22nd, 2009 3:08 am

    […] Wem Town Hall Ghost at ForgetoMori […]

  12. deano December 28th, 2009 4:08 pm

    It’s a hoax
    The picture looks alot like murdered Shropshire hairess Lesley Whittle.Her photos often appearr on true crime tv programmes.There even seems to be a mole on the girls right cheek.


  13. […] This Forgetomori post contains some video and fascinating discussion about research into the negatives of the photo that indicate it might be a hoax. […]

  14. troy February 19th, 2010 9:20 pm

    I read deano’s comment about the similaity between the Wem image and Lesley Whittle, with interest,but could not see why anyone would use a image of a famous murder victim to fake a ghost picture.Recently i found this picture of Lesley on the internet,compare it with the close up image of the girl’s face.Am i going mad or is the a strong resemblance?


  15. suchy March 22nd, 2010 1:18 pm

    I understand the picture is a fake. A close up of the face shows a series of horizontal lines -the face was captured from a TV set.Maybe it came from a real crime TV show,explaning why she looks like Lesley Whittle !

  16. Umbriel July 12th, 2010 5:35 pm

    This article seems to pin down the source of the girl image.


    Surely a real ghost wouldn’t look _identical_ to a randomly taken photo.

  17. […] com o veredito de Stapp em um programa televisivo, o fotógrafo O’Rahilly negou nervosamente ter trucado a imagem. Mas uma peça decisiva de […]

  18. Fred Ressler September 21st, 2010 12:18 pm

    Most detailed pareidolia ever. Photograph of a real, natural shadow.


  19. A Fantasma de Wem Town « Ceticismo Aberto November 14th, 2010 7:10 am

    […] é, a face teria sido capturada fotografando uma televisão.Confrontado com o veredito de Stapp em um programa televisivo, o fotógrafo O’Rahilly negou nervosamente ter trucado a imagem. Mas uma peça decisiva de […]

  20. A Fantasma de Wem Town « Ceticismo Aberto November 21st, 2010 12:52 pm

    […] com o veredito de Stapp em um programa televisivo, o fotógrafo O’Rahilly negou nervosamente ter trucado a imagem. Mas uma peça decisiva de […]

  21. Misteri Foto Wem Town Hall « The Kesgar July 2nd, 2011 11:21 pm

    […] http://forgetomori.com/2009/paranormal/ghosts/the-second-best-pareidolia-a-hoax/ Kecurigaan Forgetomori bahwa foto Wem Town Hall adalah tipuan. […]

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