Saturday, 29 July 2017

Four Armed Is Fore-warned: More Panoramic Spooks Debunked.

The following story first appeared in the Belfast Online news on July 27th, before dispersing to various tabloids as these things tend to do. The Daily Mail version of the story (29/07/17) tells us: 
"A mother-of-four was startled to see a picture of her son sporting an extra leg - and herself with three arms - in what she believes could be a message from beyond the grave from her late father. Laura, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, shared the image of her holding three-year-old Theo and smiling for the camera during the family's 'day of the dead' party to honour their loved ones who had passed. During the memorial party, Laura's sister took the picture but her husband only discovered the strange appearance of the 'extra' limbs the next day.Now, following a series of unexplained events in the household, Laura believes it could be the work of her late father, Terry, who passed away shortly after her youngest son was born."

 So let's take a look at the image that has warranted the tabloid news space. 

As you can see it appears that little Theo appears to have three legs and there also appears to be a ghostly severed arm in the frame. The Mail goes to some trouble to assure us that no one else was present in the room at the time, something which feels like a purposeful distraction from the most obvious explanation, a photographic glitch.

The first thing I noticed about the image is that all the "anomalies" seem to occur down the central axis of the image.

If you took the separate halves in isolation, there wouldn't be anything unusual about them. The anomaly is only present if you put both halves together. That makes me believe that the anomalies are a result of the image being taken in panoramic or stitch mode on a digital camera or phone. In the panoramic mode, the camera builds a picture of everything caught in the view finder, as the device is moved side to side. The propose of this is to move the camera and build a larger picture than could usually be captured, it builds the image section by section. In this example, Laura's sister hasn't moved the camera as the image is being built.

So here's what I think happened. The "recording" of the image begins right to left. Mum has her right arm under Theo whose leg is drawn in. The right half of the image is captured:

Mum moves her arm to secure her slipping head gear. Theo instinctively puts his leg out to steady himself. The left half is captured.

So that's a pretty sound hypothesis, but Fortean Times Appreciation admin and photo whizz Willie Kay wasn't sure. He suggested that someone with a panoramic camera try to replicate the image and anomalies that result. So I picked up the gauntlet and using an iPhone SE in panoramic mode in tandem with my intrepid MinI-Boot lab assistant we did just that!

Reach for the skies Mini-Boot!

As you can see, in my example the left-hand side preceded the right. Breaking it down. Mini-Boot has his left-hand across his midsection. The left-hand side is captured.

I tell MB to raise his left arm and as he does the right-hand side is captured.

You can even see in my example, the jagged edges that occur in panoramic stitching. 

Jagged edges in my example.

From Laura's example.

I think this one is well and truly debunked. Take five Mini-Boot.

There's just one thing left for me to say. I think 
It's appropriate to extend my sympathies to Laura. Sometimes in the rush to explain these things we forget the people behind them. I know the pain of losing a parent and how that is amplified in the knowledge that they will not be there to see your own children grow. I am in no way surprised that she seeks comfort in the idea her father is present. Unfortunately, this isn't an example of that presence. Sometimes I think the best way to remind ourselves that our mothers and fathers are never far from our children is to instil in them the values and qualities our parents instilled in us. We should also consider warning our children of the cynicism of outlets like the Daily Mail that take the grief of people like Laura and turn it into advertising revenue via click bait.

Looks like the panoramic glitch is the new "orb" or double exposure image, as it's providing us with an increasing amount of tabliod dross and ghost images.