8 Famous Paranormal Photographs Debunked

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They say that the camera never lies.

Whether that old aphorism is true or not, you can be sure as hell that even if the camera doesn’t lie, light, eyes, imaginations and people most certainly do.

When probing into the weird and wonderful in the world, many believers in the paranormal point to certain, seemingly unexplainable photographs to prove that there could be more to reality that meets the eye. Some of these images have become famous, in both believer and skeptic circles alike, with each side trying to prove or debunk their subjects.

Whether they depict ghosts, aliens, monsters or even time travellers, some argue that they are incontrovertible proof of all things otherworldly, whereas others view them as the result of tricks of the light, elaborate hoaxes, double exposures or even plain and simple photoshop.

The strength of these images is that they capture the imagination and make you wantto believe that what they show is real.

So, are there really more things in heaven and Earth than dreamt in our philosophy? Are we being hoodwinked by those in pursuit of fame and a quick buck? Or are we clutching at straws in the hope that extraordinary and unexplainable things really can happen?

8. The Time-Traveling Hipster

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This photograph was taken in 1941, it is genuine and has not been tampered with in any way, yet it appears to show a man that would look more at home in 2016.

The wrap-around sunglasses, the printed t-shirt, the compact camera … could we have caught a time traveller in the act?

Well, maybe, but if that’s the case, then the time traveller has done well to dress for the period. The side-shade style of sunglasses were not unheard of at the time (this still is from the 1942 film L’Ange de la Nuit), his sweatshirt appears to show that he is a supporter of the Montreal Maroons hockey team, and his camera is probably something like the Kodak 35 Rangefinder, launched in 1938.

The fact that our trendy friend is surrounded by mostly older folks only serves to compound his anachronistic appearance – your nan doesn’t keep up with the latest fashion trends, does she?

7. Solway Spaceman


This photograph, taken in 1964, appears to show some kind of helmeted spaceman or astronaut popping out from behind this little girl at a jaunty old angle. The photographer, Jim Templeton, only spotted the strange visitor after the photographs were developed.

Is this some kind of time-slip? Perhaps even an alien visitor? Man had barely begun its journey to the stars in ’64, yet this guy has the distinct look of an Apollo astronaut. The media frenzy at the time covered pretty much all options.

It’s actually more likely to be the little girl’s dear old mum.

With the horizon levelled and the exposure knocked back, you practically can’t unsee a dark-haired person with their back to the camera. The angle of the arm is also odd for a forward-facing figure (although, perhaps alien spacemen have a different joint configuration), and much more suited to a figure with its back to us.

Templeton insists that he didn’t see anyone there at the time, and he’s probably telling the truth. The viewfinder on the camera he was using would cut out 30% of the final image, creating a blind spot.

The picture was taken at a time when spacemen were at the forefront of the public imagination, there’s little wonder it caused the stir that it did.

6. The Levitating Man


Colin Evans was a spiritual medium back in the 1930s. Part of his act included him being levitated by unseen hands in the middle of the crowd.

He would, of course, have to levitate in total darkness (wouldn’t want to scare the spirits away after all), but luckily, flash photography allowed us to catch the spirits in the act. He would be briefly illuminated in mid air to the gathered crowd, and the resulting photograph clearly captures him being lifted by the spirits.

Despite the fact that that he is clearly just jumping off his frigging chair, this photograph is still occasionally peddled about the internet in discussions about levitation.

Ultimately, Evans is betrayed by the technology he used to prove his powers. The photos reveal that he was actually setting the flash off himself, using a remote attached to a cord, allowing him to perfectly time his jumps.

5. The Battle Of Los Angeles

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To be fair, something definitely did happen in the skies above Los Angeles on the 24th February, 1942, but exactly what is still the subject of much debate.

Late that night, something was spotted flying over LA, and the order was given to launch as many anti-aircraft projectiles the military could lay their hands on.

The incident occurred just three months after the US entered WWII, shortly after the Pearl Harbour attacks, and the entire country was consumed by “invasion jitters”. Because of this, it is generally thought that a weather balloon was mistaken for an enemy aircraft and, to make matters worse, anti-aircraft burst were caught in the searchlights and mistaken for yet more planes. Officials weren’t taking any chances and lit the place up.

There are some people, however, who aren’t satisfied with this story. Whilst it’s perhaps plausible that this really was an enemy attack (although the lack of publicity over the American “victory” would suggest otherwise), there are many that think that whole story is a UFO coverup.

The iconic photograph that was printed in the press appears to show a large, saucer-like object. Unfortunately for the Ufologists, it was common practice to retouch photographs before they went to print. The image was brightened, beams of light added and the “saucer” shape in the centre was sharpened and emphasized, with various flecks of lens flare being interpreted as part of the object.

4. Giant Skeletons Found


These images surface every so often, usually attached to a story about either a new gigantic discovery, or an excavation from “the olden days” that was somehow either forgotten or hushed up.

Believe it or not, there are actually a lot of people with a vested interest in proving the existence of giants. They are dotted throughout the writings of many different religions and, should proof of their existence be found, it would be God: 1, Atheists: 0.

There are plenty of variations on the theme, but the photograph above is actually from a photoshop competition on the now defunct Worth1000.com.

The competition brief was: “…to create an archaeological hoax. Your job is to show a picture of an archaeological discovery that looks so real, had it not appeared at Worth1000, people might have done a double take.”

The source photograph for this particular image was taken from the excavation of a mastodon in Hyde Park. You can see the original here.

3. The Wem Ghost Girl


In 1995, Wem Town Hall was destroyed by a fire. As it burned, amateur photographer Tony O’Rahilly snapped a picture.When he came to develop the image, he was apparently surprised to find the image of of a girl, stood in the doorway and seemingly unperturbed by the raging inferno.

The image caused a sensation and, under initial analysis, was claimed to be genuine. The story rose up of a little girl from the 1677 who had died in a fire and the photograph was considered to be convincing proof of the existence of ghosts.

However, a in 2010, and a few years after O’Rahilly’s death, a pensioner from Wem found a postcard of the town from 1922 that featured a very familiar little girl.

The images are identical and the photograph has since been pronounced a fake. Not to be perturbed, however, there are now those who think that the little girl from 1922 could still be wandering around Wem in spirit form, setting fires and voguing her signature look, and that is what O’Rahilly snapped on that fateful day.

2. Nessie At Last?

Apple Maps

The famous “Surgeon’s Photo” of Nessie popping her head out of the waters of Loch Ness has been so roundly debunked that even most Nessie believers acknowledge it to be a fake, but this image taken by and Apple Maps satellite still has plenty of people convinced.

It appears to show a large creature with huge, Plesiosaur-like flippers, but a head more like that of a whale. Another image was also captured by Google Maps which showed a similar shape in the water.

Surely a creature that can be seen from space can be nothing other that the Loch Ness Monster?

Unfortunately for Nessie hunters, both images turned out to depict the wake of a boat that was traversing the Loch at the time. The distinctive pattern perfectly matches the wake created by the Jacobite Queen – a tourist boat that makes regular trips across the loch.

1. The Enfield Poltergeist

The image of an 11-year-old girl being flung from her bed by unseens hands fascinated and horrified all who followed the Enfield hauntings in the late 70s.

A series of photographs and audio recordings taken during the paranormal investigations have been enough to convince legions of believers. However, put into context with the rest of the photographs of this particular incident, it does look rather more like a girl simply jumping out of bed.

The investigations were carried out by members of the Society for Psychical Research and they were convinced of the house’s haunted status. Unfortunately, the problem with getting paranormal investigators to verify hauntings, is that they already believe in ghosts.

Janet was also prone to speaking with a demon’s voice, but it has been noted from recordings that the seemingly gruff poltergeist seemed to have the vocabulary and mannerisms of an 11-year-old girl. Not to mention the fact that the pair of sisters generally smirked their way through interviews regarding the hauntings, and Janet was at one point caught bending spoons and “practicing” levitation by jumping on her bed.

Despite all of this frankly damning behaviour, the case is still considered by many to be one of the most convincing hauntings in history – what do you think?


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