Haunting image left for capital sleuths to probe

COLLETTE DEVLIN
Last updated 05:00 09/08/2014
Ghost mystery
WHERE DID HE COME FROM?: Petra Brooks, of Georgia in the United States, is adamant no one was walking past when she took this photo. Even NZ Skeptics admits the photo does not look as if it has been faked.
James Gilberd
ROSS GIBLIN/ Fairfax NZ
LOOKING FOR ACTIVITY: James Gilberd, leader and co-founder of Strange Occurrences, is yet to be convinced that ghosts can be photographed.

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A team of Wellington ghost-hunters have been left stumped after being asked to investigate an international mystery.

James Gilberd, leader and co-founder of Strange Occurrences - a Wellington-based paranormal unit that investigates haunted homes, historic buildings and photos - was sent a photo by a woman in the United States who believed she had captured the ghost of a soldier on camera.

Gilberd, a photographer by trade, like most of his team, said: "I don't know much about finding ghosts, but I know photographs."

Petra Brooks, from Georgia, took a photo of her granddaughter while waiting for July 4 fireworks to start. While deleting some photos, she found a picture of what she believed was a ghostly soldier figure.

She sent an email to Gilberd, asking: "Is this truly a spirit I captured?"

He ruled out PhotoShop but thought perhaps it was a real person walking past and a case of "selective attention" - where the person taking the photo doesn't notice other things.

However, both Brooks and the man sitting beside her were adamant no one was walking past at the time.

Gilberd concluded: "We think the semi-silhouetted figure is definitely a human figure, not something caused by pareidolia or any combination of photographic anomalies.

"If we accept the corroborated declaration that there was no actual unaccounted-for human present when the photo was taken, then we have a picture of some kind of spirit or ghost - a historical trace of a soldier, perhaps."

It was one of the most interesting photos he had worked on, because he was still uncertain. "Nothing has convinced me of ghosts yet, or the ability to photograph them, but this is as close as it has come."

The image has been viewed on Gilberd's blog 30,000 times since he posted it on Monday.

NZ Skeptics spokeswoman Vicki Hyde said the photo had many of the classic characteristics associated with "anomalous" photos often interpreted as showing ghosts or UFOs.

Odd photos, particularly from smartphones, had become a problem for paranormal investigators, who tended to be cautious because of fakes or misattributions, she said. However, this did not look as if it was faked.

"But that doesn't mean it really was a ghost . . . Even if you accept it is a ghost, rather than a person briefly in shot, there is no indication of it being a soldier.

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"Proof of life after death would be such an earth-shattering discovery that we have to require extraordinary proof of such a claim - and this ain't it."

- The Dominion Post

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