Japan: The Woman in the Audience

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This is a photograph that I see more and more of. According to all of the sources online, it shows an audience attending a psychic TV show in Japan. The bizarre angle of the subject’s head, her pale face, strange eyes and half-crazed expression caught the photographer’s eye and the image was posted online. First getting noticed online around mid-2015, it seems to have been first posted as early as 2011. Since then it gained some infamy and was believed by enough people that it made it into mainstream media. Here it is in a magazine (if anyone can translate the page’s text into English please comment):

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But of course, it’s fake: the subject’s head has been graphically manipulated to appear unnatural. While the original is also available online (and below) it is conveniently ignored by most of the websites that recount this story. Interestingly though, the original is almost as creepy as the doctored version. While I’m sure that the subject, having noticed the photographer, is simply smiling, it effectively demonstrates how images might be perceived when they are taken out of context.

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The Original

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

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Posted in Bizarre, Debunked?, Hoax?, Horror, Legends, Paranormal, Urban Myth? | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

The Jersey Devil

I’m fascinated by the Pine Barrens and have been since I first learned about the place years ago. This huge expanse of forest smothers a large chunk of southern New Jersey and, within it, all manner of unnerving stories reside. Even the very name conjures up feelings of terror: endless trees amid which to become lost, enclosed isolation, a land still not fully tamed by human hands.

Of course, the main legend associated with this area is that of the Jersey Devil. Over the quarter-millennium that it has been reported, more than two thousand people have supposedly seen it. It has intimidated communities; caused havoc; and even snatched livestock, large dogs and children (according to some sources). It’s been blamed for all sorts of things: from crop failure to river pollution. It’s even been hailed as a harbinger of war. It has killed things.

People have speculated for years about whether the Devil is a cryptid, a supernatural creature, a hoax or simply a story that has been passed down for centuries and despite a raft of sightings we don’t seem to be any closer to a thoroughly definitive answer.

Frankly, it’s no surprise that the Devil defies nomenclature as almost everything about it, from its origin to its description, varies from report to report.  There are those that say the Devil is simply a story—a legend passed down by orators and writers, distorted and twisted by enthusiasm. Others ask how it can be a work of fiction when it has “terrorised towns and caused factories and schools to close down”.

But as you can explore, not all sources are to be trusted.

Towards the end of 2015, I wrote a couple of articles about the Devil, each with a slightly different theme, so if you’re interested click the links below and read away!

The Jersey Devil and the Big Problem with Paranormal Authors—Hayley Stevens’ Blog

Trouble with the Jersey Devil—Unexplained Mysteries.com

For more research into real-life cases please check out my ebooks.

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Solved: The Last Photo of Charlie Noonan

A blog post I published last year called The Last Photo of Charlie Noonan has proved to be one of my most popular (along with The Cooper Falling Body Photograph and The Mystery of Elisa Lam and the Cecil Hotel). And I’m not surprised, as it features an eye-catchingly weird photograph with a chilling tale attached.

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Supposedly, early last century, folklorist Charlie Noonan travelled the US chasing down bizarre and mysterious tales. One of these jaunts involved an old woman who had been described to him as not quite human. Always escorted by a large dog, she lived alone and a disturbing sense of unease seemed to accompany encounters with her. Intrigued, Noonan set off to find her—and was never seen again.

Sometime later, Noonan’s missing-person story was printed in regional newspapers and, as look would have it, his camera (it still had his name on it) turned up in a pawn store. A single photograph was waiting to be developed from the film (see above).

This, apparently, was Charlie Noonan’s final photograph: a strange scene in which one can observe an angry dog beside a peculiar woman with eyes that seem to glow. It’s an unnerving photograph and its veracity and origin have been hotly debated. Well, I can reveal that it’s actually as some already suspected: a good ol’ fashioned fake.

It appears that the original was posted in late November, 2009 on a blog called Always Becoming. The subject of the photograph is a real woman, named Virginia Romero, a Tiwa Indian from Taos Pueblo, New Mexico:

“Virginia weighed all of 90 pounds and stood four and a half feet tall on days when she wasn’t hunched over with a bundle of some kind on her back. Her long black hair never left the tidy knot at the back of her head and on days when the task at hand was especially dirty and laborious – plastering with mud or tanning a hide – she wore a blue and white bandanna. Virginia spoke little English and rarely traveled beyond the reservation. From the moment this wiry workhorse of a woman woke up until she went to sleep, Virginia worked and she worked hard.”

The blog entry was about strong women and went on to describe more details of Virginia Romero’s life. This is the image that accompanied the text:

Noonan original pic

As you can see, our photo of Charlie Noonan is clearly copied from this, with some details erased, the dog and the glowing eyes added and the image reversed to confuse search engines. So there we have it. I’m sure, despite the proof here, most people will still continue to post the doctored photograph around the internet regardless, but it is not often that we get the luxury of confidently drawing a line under any of these stories and my sincere thanks go to the anonymous poster who got in touch to tell me about their research.

Case closed.

For more research into real-life cases please check out my ebooks.

Posted in Bizarre, Blogging, Books, Debunked?, Ebooks, Hoax?, Horror, Legends, Paranormal, Urban Myth?, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

The Jersey Devil and the Big Problem with Paranormal Authors

I have a guest article up at Hayley Stevens’ excellent blog about the Jersey Devil and the how generally terrible ghost books’ research is. It’s an interesting topic and a great blog so go check it out.

Let’s start with North America’s Pine Barrens and its most infamous son—the Jersey Devil. This hybrid monster was supposedly an unwanted 13th child, cast to Satan by its witch mother and lurking amidst the trees ever since.

Over the summer, I began researching this story to assess whether I would want to include it in a new book. It’s a fascinating tale but I was soon reminded of the frustrations that often face those that delve into these old tales: plagiarism, embellishment and blind acceptance. These problems seem to affect this genre more than others but, puzzlingly, they are rarely written about…

Read the rest here.

For more research into real-life cases please check out my ebooks.

Posted in Bizarre, Blogging, Books, Debunked?, Ebooks, Fiction, History, Hoax?, Legends, Paranormal, Strange Places, Urban Myth?, Writing | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

Haunted Flat for Rent in Glasgow?

rightmove-shadow-cropThis was noticed by an eagle-eyed user of a busy forum. Other than a particularly monstrous estate agent, I have no idea what could cause such an unnerving shadow. Feel free to leave your theories below, rational or irrational.

For more research into real-life cases please check out my ebooks.

Posted in Bizarre, Paranormal, Strange Places, Writing | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments