I’ve been corresponding with a gentleman, Kevin, who visits allegedly haunted sites in southern California. As evidence of his paranormal experiences, he sent me this photograph, taken inside the La Purisima mission in Lompoc, CA.
Mision La Purisima Concepcion de Maria Santisima is one of the famous network of Spanish Franciscan missions stretching the length of California, established in the 18th century. Today it’s something of a living history museum. Unlike many of the California missions, La Purisima is no longer used for actual regular worship services.
Like so many “ghost” photographs, Kevin’s is of astonishingly poor quality. It’s not even close to being in focus, for one thing, and clearly should have been taken with a flash. I always marvel at such pictures, because in reality, it’s not even possible to buy a camera that automatically takes such bad quality. The world’s worst camera phone would have done a better job. You have to deliberately jack the settings, or blur it out in Photoshop.
But, be that as it may, it’s still easy to identify what’s in the picture. He also included several completely black jpegs, which he said the camera also took in the mission. In response to Kevin asking me what I thought, I told him “Well, you’ve shown me a picture of two people and a black jpeg. I don’t think anyone would earn your respect if they considered either of those to be evidence of the supernatural.”
Two people you say. I showed the picture to a National Geographic photographer and he said it was the background. He did something on photo shop and said whatever it is, it is not human. I am the subject of the pic he said and the “person” is the background. Grey hair, skin, black clothes. It confuses me because he is a skeptic also.
This response is what I wanted to talk about today. Do you really have to be a National Geographic photographer to be qualified to tell whether a person in a picture is a person or a ghost? Does National Geographic offer some specific training in that area? And, especially, when the original photo is so far beyond the threshold of acceptable quality, is there even any point in trying to assert such a claim?
To my way of thinking, being a human being who lives and breathes is the only qualification one needs to know whether one is looking at a picture of a person or not. Having experience as a photographer (which I have as much as many people) does not confer one’s brain with any special human-identifying superpowers. If there were a skill that were helpful in such a case as this, I’d say Photoshop experience, not photography; but again, the picture’s so bad that any meaningful analysis is worthless.
Kevin was merely using the “argument from authority” to claim “my friend is right because he’s a National Geographic photographer” and because “he is a skeptic also.” Even if we assume that to be true, it doesn’t make the friend right at all. Indeed, it suggests the friend is oddly predisposed to see ghosts in commonplace photos. This weakens his testimony, it does not strengthen it.
Bottom line, it’s a picture of two people, remarkable only for its poor quality. But it’s also so blurry that you could tell me the living history priest guy is a coat rack and I wouldn’t be surprised. Evidence of the supernatural? We need to do better than this.