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