Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Is this a photo of ghost children fleeing 1886 fire?

By John L. Guerra

I am a skeptic. I am especially wary of those cable shows that purport to show videos of light orbs or leaping bed trolls or something fleeing in the dark.
When John Opp, who manages Ripley's Museum in the former Jefferson Hotel on Duval Street, showed me a string of "spooky" photos on his camera phone, I decided to join him in a nighttime tour of the museum to see if we could determine whether a floating face, or a disembodied hand in his photographs were really images of people long passed.
John said he started taking photos in the empty museum one night after he heard noises and felt chills. He said he was just "fooling around to see what he could photograph."
With me in tow, Opp stopped at five points in the museum where he'd snapped a photo and pulled an image up on his screen. The place has the greatest stuff in it and his flash had played havoc, creating the oddest images.
What he believed was a floating ghostly face in one image, for instance, was in fact a unique African death mask in one glass display case reflecting off the front of another display case. A "ghost" in a little dress was actually the reflection of "Thumbelina," the world's tiniest woman, showing up on the glass of another display case. In this manner, we determined that most of the "apparitions" were reflections created from other display cases as his camera flash went off.
We couldn't debunk this one.
When we got to the back stairwell--the same stairwell that served the old Jefferson Hotel--I could see no object, light source, or other item that could create the shadow figures he captured on his camera. (You can see the shadow of John's head against the wall just in front of the shadow figure in the foreground). The second figure is on the top landing in the corner. There are no stairs above this set of stairs. Therefore, there is nothing to the left of the landing but a wall. The notation in the top of the photograph is from a photo labeling feature from the software in his camera phone.
The fire of 1886 began next to the San Carlos Institute near the La Concha Hotel and spread down Duval Street to Front Street. It destroyed commercial buildings as well as grand homes, sending people  into the street. The Jefferson Hotel also caught fire and its guests must have been in a rush to get out.
Are these the ghostly images of children or young people from 1866 fleeing down the stairs of the Old Jefferson Hotel during the fire? I don't know, but I have known John for some time and he easily agreed when we were able to dismiss other suspect photos in his phone's image file. In other words, he was just as curious and skeptical as I was as we sought answers for his other suspect photos. I sense he's being honest when he told me he had done nothing on PhotoShop or other software program to create the "shadow people."
Anyway, I thought this photo would be of great interest to readers who have an open mind and/or know camera phone software. There may even be a feature that allows one to convert images of people into shadow people, but I doubt it.
Until I hear from someone who knows differently, this photo goes into the bizarre and creepy file.

-- John Guerra


  1. Creepy. I must confess I watch all those shows!

    --Kathi Higgs, Marlborough, Mass.

  2. I am really enjoying your blog. Thanks for putting me on the distribution list.

    --Catherine Manickam, Northern Virginia

  3. Here's my favorite sentence so far:
    "Stillness inhabits a dead body so thoroughly that the absence of life is apparent a hundred feet away."
    Damn near made me cry.

    --James Ketchum, Columbia, Md.