Debunked: Cooper/Copper family ghost photo

Mick West

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This image has been knocking around the internet for a few years, often as part of collections like "top ten unexplained ghost photos", with stories like:
http://hoaxes.org/weblog/comments/falling_body_photo
Sometime in the 1950s the Cooper family of Texas bought an old house and moved into it. On their first night there, the father took a photo of Mom and Grandma posing with the two kids at the dining room table. Everyone was happy and smiling. They were living the American dream.

But when the photo was subsequently developed, they saw, to their horror, that what looked like a body falling or hanging from the ceiling had materialized behind them. It hadn't been there when the father took the photo. So where had it come from? Was it an apparition of a deceased former tenant of the house? No one knew.
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It appears to be a digital composite of an old family photo and another image, possibly a ballerina (suggested by @deirdre, here). The original posting of the image is unclear. The earliest known version is in 2009, by Thomas Ligotti. A likely origin is the thread that spawned the "Slender Man" meme: "Create Paranormal Images" on somethingawful.com, dating back to 2009 (tracked down by @Ray Von Geezer, here).
https://forums.somethingawful.com/showthread.php?threadid=3150591

20170401-101619-snafs.jpg
The images in that thread are largely broken as they were hosted on the now-defunt site waffleimages.com,, but many exist in the Internet Archive version, showing how people would create "ghost" photos from old family photos. For example:
20170401-102141-sqtrl.jpg
The images created were deliberately subtle as the intent was trolling (posting hoax photos to get a reaction). In the above there is an ectoplasmic ghost face above the children on the left. Often the images were also supplied with a fake backstory.

The origin of the "Cooper family" background photo was revealed when one of the boys in the photo, Robert Copper, commented here:

When my older brother sent me this link I was floored. We are the two boys in the picture. Well we were back in 1959. I have many picture like this one, but not this one. My mother had a habit of throwing away pictures that she didn't like. Eventually the ones she kept were passed along to me. What annoys me is that somebody got hold of a family photograph. The story is almost entirely fiction. Our last name is Copper, not Cooper. Does anybody know who did this?

Robert kindly had an old slide scanned which shows that it is indeed him and and brother in the photo.

Other features in the photo match:
  • The drapes
  • A small portion of the tablecloth pattern
  • The candlesticks (only two, presumably to match the cake)
  • mug with gold rim
While identifying the people in the photo does not entirely debunk the "falling man" photo, this new evidence does suggest much more strongly that the photo is fake. The strongest evidence is that the birthday photo (taken about the same time) is in color, and much higher quality. The falling man photo is very low resolution, monochrome, high contrast, and grainy, as if it had been processed to look older. Here I've applied a similar process to the birthday photo:



[Note this is a summary thread from the discussion below, so the following posts may repeat information]
 
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So this picture seems to have gone viral. The story:

As you can see, it shows the Cooper family sitting around a table, just days after they had moved into their new family house in Texas. What the family was unaware of is that when the photograph was developed, the image of what appears to be a falling body emerged in the left hand side of the room https://urbantimes.co/2014/07/5-spooky-and-unexplained-photographs/
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Some sites, like Tumblr shares, go on to say how the boys had nightmares for years and years.


1_familywithhangingman.jpg

The earliest posting of the picture i can find is Nov 19, 2009

Now i can't "debunk" as i havent yet found the original "hanging man" photo. The above link suggests professionals have examined it and it is genuine. But i disagree.

The shadows are all wrong for one. The hanging 'man' part has no light source for "his" shadows, as you can clearly see from the dark corner of the room and table side. And the candles' shadows are in the opposite direction. So if it is indeed a ghost "he" brought his own ghost lighting with him. :confused:




Except, it isnt a man. It is a female ballet dancer or at least a female doing a ballet pose. When you turn the 'ghost' upright it becomes more obvious.

dancehep.jpg

armpositions.jpg






Here's the actual creepy part: Although the dress resembles dresses from the late 1940s/early 1950s when ballet was "hot" and many dancers were interviewed by the press and adored by the public (note: necklace and earrings on the "ghost") and these dancers often struck poses during interviews in 'street clothing'...
ex:
danceinterviews.jpg



the closest match i found to the dress and necklace on the "ghost" (disclaimer: could not find a frontal view of the dress) were pics from the 1970's of a dance instructor named Maria Vegh, who is still with us and teaching ballet.

Her website is titled "An American Ballet Story"!! Of course, the "An American Horror Story" series came out 2 years after the 2009 date on the photo... but still. weird right?

hstBH1973Jun1829Vegh00.png marievegh.jpg

http://www.zandance.com/hstPDX.html
 

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Interesting. The "ghost" and the candles are casting a shadow, but the people don't seem to be.... Who is the ghost again?

:eek:!
 
I'm working on some scene lighting right at the moment of a similar situation where the light source comes directly from the camera and the effect seen on the ladies in the pic is the same... So it appears the ladies in the room are being illuminated by a camera flash probably slightly above the lens and such close alignment automatically hides any resulting shadows from the camera itself. The Ghost character therefore shouldn't have a visible shadow either but does so in the pic, indicating an illumination source to the Lhs of camera that is not throwing a similarly side lit shadow from the seated ladies. This seems to indicate a simple composite with poorly aligned lighting, possibly old-school style cutouts of two photos pasted together then rephotographed
 
I agree with everything stated above, and I am sure this is a fake and nothing paranormal is going on in the image, but I do not think we will convince anybody by arguing about light and shadows. This is the same issue as when one tries to debunk religion using science. "Ghosts" are not physical entities, and therefor one could always argue that light and shadow does not behave as expected.

For believers, the only way to really debunk this would be to find the two original images that this most likely is composed from. But if they haven't been found by now, a simple google search probably would not reveal anything.
 
I agree with everything stated above, and I am sure this is a fake and nothing paranormal is going on in the image, but I do not think we will convince anybody by arguing about light and shadows. This is the same issue as when one tries to debunk religion using science. "Ghosts" are not physical entities, and therefor one could always argue that light and shadow does not behave as expected.

For believers, the only way to really debunk this would be to find the two original images that this most likely is composed from. But if they haven't been found by now, a simple google search probably would not reveal anything.
kinda agree but a ghost throwing that strong of a shadow is a pretty big deal! plus the shadow of the 'ghosts' right hand doesnt match the hand curvature at all. not sure why they would have even bothered with adding a shadow, unless they wanted it to be obvious.
 
Of course it seems from photos that not just dead people form ghosts, but also their already dead clothing. Ghost clothing must be a bit like schrodinger's cat. Simultaneously parading about preserving the modesty of ghosts and also cluttering up musty hand-me-down drawers of their descendants .
 
Also, if this really was a hanging person, then why is the necklace hanging upwards around their neck?! Ghost jewellery is obviously lighter than air!
 
and if this was a genuine ghost, I would be scared to death and never even dare to close my eyes again. So, it better be fake.
 
It looks like a double exposure trick that I first time tried myself at school in early 1970s. It was done, usually, by printing two different negatives on the same positive (photographic paper), or, accidentally, by taking two different photos on the same negative (piece of film).

I agree with @GregMc that the family sitting scene including the tablecloth, candles and teapot, was illuminated by a camera flash. There is a gradient of lighting from the centre to the corners that is not interrupted by the presence of the "ghost" image. The "ghost" image was probably taken against white background, there is a shadow of the "ghost" right arm matching the contours of the sleeve. Digital adjustment of the lighting reveals the other arm's shadow:
familywithhangingman_reduced_shadow.jpg
If not for the superimposed family image, the "ghost" figure would be illuminated more uniformly, or even be brighter on its apparently darker left side.

Edit:
What I thought was the shadow of the left arm, the most likely is a blur, doubling the arm's image. Neither of the arm's images appears to be the shadow of the other. Perhaps, the arm's movement was spotted by the photographer and the negative subsequently was discarded, but later inadvertently reused for the family photo.
 
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Hello guys, can I ask a question that is kind of relevant to this, in the hope that you may shed light on my own ghost image story.

Can a digital image taken on a phone somehow glitch so that the thumbnail picture depicts a scene but when clicked on the larger image includes something else?

I ask because a few years ago my partner went for a riverside walk and took a few photos of dutch barges and scenery etc. One of the pictures was of the river bank, looking up the river with a weir in the short distance and trees. When we clicked on the image there was a close up image of the side of a girls face taking up nearly half the photo. Close, as if my partner had walked right up to her and taken a picture but she hadn't noticed because she was looking down? We thought it was weird because she looked like a friend of ours but we checked all the other pics in the whole phone and she wasn't on any of them. We printed the photo and she was there.
 
Can a digital image taken on a phone somehow glitch so that the thumbnail picture depicts a scene but when clicked on the larger image includes something else?
seems theres an app for that. Well, at least for double exposures on your phones (which looks very cool i must say). no idea what the thumbnail would look like or if the phone deletes the original individual pics. hard to believe the originals would be automatically deleted though.

20121027-191830.jpg

and with dubble you can 'double exposure' with friends apparently.

dubbleis an app that wants to bring that same experience to the world of digital photography. It allows people from around the world to create random double exposure photos with each other. http://petapixel.com/2014/12/30/dubble-social-photo-app-lets-create-double-exposure-photos-others/
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The composition of the photo seems a bit odd, having the family off to one side looks like space was left for the "body", but I suppose that's easy to say - the photographer might have wanted to get the candelabra in, or he might just have been an early proponent of not centralising the subjects.

I must admit though, I'm freaked out more by the hands on the woman on the right :eek:

Ray Von
 
Those aren't really shadows around the candles. It's a common "glare" effect you get with old photography. Remember how sequins flashed black in old black and white TV? I think polarization was developed to fix it.
 
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The family picture looks too overexposed to be only a photographic artefact. The whites are suspiciously way too bright and the dark parts are a bit too dark. Also the grain of the picture looks like what you would have in photoshop after maxing up brightness and such on a bad resolution picture.

I suspect a photoshop job, from looking at deirdre's ballet dancers photos, I tried to do the same effect.

First I took an innocent picture of vintage dancer Margot Fonteyn in "Swan Lake"


Then I cropped the silhouette in photoshop, played with the levels to gain a stark contrast between the whites and the blacks of the picture. I then duplicated the picture and reduced the opacity of the double in order to have a shadowy transparent figure hanging behind the first one. Using the smudge tool, I blurred lots of stuff in order for it to be urecognisable.



My photoshop job is a bit crude but I think it's not too far-fetched to suspect a montage like that.
 
The family picture looks too overexposed to be only a photographic artefact. The whites are suspiciously way too bright and the dark parts are a bit too dark. Also the grain of the picture looks like what you would have in photoshop after maxing up brightness and such on a bad resolution picture.

My photoshop job is a bit crude but I think it's not too far-fetched to suspect a montage like that.

It looks far-fetched to me.

OK, it could have been done in photoshop that does have tools for "old photo effects", but this suggestion results from an inspection of a digital copy presumably scanned from the original photo. Or, probably, a copy of a copy of a copy… Having no information about the original, we can only speculate and suggest many plausible explanations.

In my previous post, I pointed out that this could have been done with using "low-tech" methods available at the time when this photo allegedly had been taken. But to conclude on what more likely was it, a deliberate hoax or an accident, we still need to know about the original. Was it a print or a negative? If the latter, was it a film, or a glass photographic plate? Or was it a Polaroid photo?…
 
Thanks Deirdre cool stuff. I probably didn't explain properly but this happened about 9 or ten years ago on an old motorola flip phone, razr V3 definately wasn't done with an app or photoshop but there must be an explanation. i dug out the picture and took a photo, it's not brilliant but in the thumbnail she isn't there, you could see trees and the rest of the sluice/weir. we no longer have the phone
 

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Thanks Deirdre cool stuff. I probably didn't explain properly but this happened about 9 or ten years ago on an old motorola flip phone, razr V3 definately wasn't done with an app or photoshop but there must be an explanation. i dug out the picture and took a photo, it's not brilliant but in the thumbnail she isn't there, you could see trees and the rest of the sluice/weir. we no longer have the phone

Could you please clarify whether the background image in your photo corresponded exactly to what was in the photo's thumb or not?

It looks like the person, whose face in the foreground, walked into the frame just after your partner had pressed the button. Taking the snapshot is not instantaneous, there can be a delay caused by autofocus. After the button has been pressed, camera waits a fraction of second for the sharpest full-size image, but meanwhile it could have recorded a thumb.

This is my educated guess, as I do not know for sure whether your old motorola phone recorded thumbs separately or scaled down the full-size pictures.
 
Thanks Deirdre cool stuff. I probably didn't explain properly but this happened about 9 or ten years ago on an old motorola flip phone, razr V3 definately wasn't done with an app or photoshop but there must be an explanation. i dug out the picture and took a photo, it's not brilliant but in the thumbnail she isn't there, you could see trees and the rest of the sluice/weir. we no longer have the phone
well was she in the vicinity when your friend was taking the pics? or was he all alone out there?

i realize your pic is just a pic of the pic so the thumbnail is a bit diffrent, but i dont see her on your thumbnail here on Metabunk either : )

maybe she's just shy!

tn.JPG

add: there isa weird break line right above my red line.. her hair doesnt line up. and i might see trees superimposed on her hair... which could also be from you right now taking the pic of a pic.

snip.JPG
 
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You can see
Also, if this really was a hanging person, then why is the necklace hanging upwards around their neck?! Ghost jewellery is obviously lighter than air!

I was thinking maybe one picture got stuck on the other thru moisture whether intentional or not and left an imprint and then another copy was made???????
 
Could you please clarify whether the background image in your photo corresponded exactly to what was in the photo's thumb or not?
as far as i remember it did. we could see trees behind her and the rest of the sluice. and i think it scaled down pictures rather than cropped the corner like it looks like it does on here. It has to be something like what your saying
well was she in the vicinity when your friend was taking the pics? or was he all alone out there?
it was the monday morning after a weekend music festival in Reading so there was probably people around but he's always been adamant he never saw her walk so close to him
add: there isa weird break line right above my red line.. her hair doesnt line up. and i might see trees superimposed on her hair... which could also be from you right now taking the pic of a pic.

it's shockingly pixelated as a whole really :) it's been scratched where you've drawn the line aswell due to being in a drawer i think. It does look alot lighter where the bumps you've drawn are. thanks guys
 
I was thinking maybe one picture got stuck on the other thru moisture whether intentional or not and left an imprint and then another copy was made???????
Water does a number on photos, there'd be at least some damage before it would transfer an image from one to the other. Damage seems very unlikely.

Everything about the picture is consistent with a double exposure, which with a lot of older cameras is easy to do on accident (I have a couple from the 80's and 90's that have a mechanism to prevent it on accident, but can be manipulated carefully to allow it on purpose). The composition makes me think it was intentional.
 
Water does a number on photos, there'd be at least some damage before it would transfer an image from one to the other. Damage seems very unlikely.

Everything about the picture is consistent with a double exposure, which with a lot of older cameras is easy to do on accident (I have a couple from the 80's and 90's that have a mechanism to prevent it on accident, but can be manipulated carefully to allow it on purpose). The composition makes me think it was intentional.

I have this picture of a WW2 vet thats been in a little plastic sleeve, like from a wallet. Anyway his face transferred from the picture to the plastic.
 
Yes, I've had the same happen with a picture of my wife, and the picture shows distinctive damage as a result. It's actually worse with a picture against another picture, as both pictures will be damaged with parts of each transferring to the other.

This picture is not at all damaged.
 
When my older brother sent me this link I was floored. We are the two boys in the picture. Well we were back in 1959. I have many picture like this one, but not this one. My mother had a habit of throwing away pictures that she didn't like. Eventually the ones she kept were passed along to me. What annoys me is that somebody got hold of a family photograph. The story is almost entirely fiction. OUr last name is Copper, not Cooper. Does anybody know who did this?
 
Hi Mick, if I sent you another photo how would I no that this wont happen again? I really don't want this to happen again.
 
Hi Mick, if I sent you another photo how would I no that this wont happen again? I really don't want this to happen again.
well noone in the world would know it was you in the first place if you didnt just tell us all :) you can send a photo to Mick privately, but it would be nice to debunk the 'hanging ghost' thats what's making your pic go viral.
 
Hi Mick, if I sent you another photo how would I no that this wont happen again? I really don't want this to happen again.

If you are concerned that the pic will be re-used then you can send it directly to me metabunk@gmail.com and I will display here a very small segment of the photo that demonstrates it is the same people and/or setting, such as:


or


Those are from the hoax photo, but if you could show something matching in another photo, then that would verify the story.
 
I've edited the thread title to Cooper/Copper, the Copper name is actually used in some versions of the story, but it's unclear if these are from an earlier version, or (more likely) a mistaken copying of Cooper. Example:
http://psychologyofterror.tumblr.com/post/102874780799/10-mysterious-photos-that-cannot-be-explained
There is very little information about this photo other that the Copper family moved into their new house and decided to take a family photo. After developing, the picture shows a body falling from the ceiling.
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That's exciting. It would be fantastic if the user is who they claim to be.

'Does anybody know who did this?' - I believe Google Chrome has a photo-tracking tool, it might help. Although I think everyone here is asking the same question.

'My mother had a habit of throwing away pictures that she didn't like.' - This statement throws me off a bit. More of a dodge, now proof is required.

Nothing can be disproven about the photo, as opposed to the "story". This seems like a wild scheme to give a conspiracy life (or take it away), whilst the purpose of this site is quite the opposite. Like users reviving GLP stories from 2009-2010 for ad revenue and sub-site launches, could be very silly.
 
'My mother had a habit of throwing away pictures that she didn't like.' - This statement throws me off a bit. More of a dodge, now proof is required.

... This seems like a wild scheme to give a conspiracy life (or take it away), whilst the purpose of this site is quite the opposite...

That's exactly why Mick asked Robert for evidence. That only proves that metabunk is not ready to jump in any wagon only because it fits the beliefs of the majority of the forum. :)

If there is no evidence for the claim, then the claim is invalid.
 
*At this period in time. Sorry.
It would be great to focus less on my grammatical syntax and more on the content. lulz

Nothing about the current situation reveals either of those will surface, or that it's a lady. The *theory it might be a lady is an assumed connection, deirdre.
 
? of course it can. if
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Under the current conditions, the "if" is beyond reality. So as I said;

Nothing can be disproven about the photo, as opposed to the "story".
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This is why I don't particularly bother getting involved outside procuring physical evidence, and why I tailed my initial post as I did. I've already examined the photo, as have others. My claim stands, and will likely continue to stand. Pictures implies multiple photos, when in this reality there is only 1 - the one we have. So if this photo emerges in physical allowing for examination beyond digital compression, not multiple as your "if" implies, then better theories can emerge.

The dancing lady theory is nice, but my examination of the photograph doesn't lead me to believe it's true. You're welcome to believe what you like.

Right now we're posting in circles.
 
Right now we're posting in circles
i scrolled back and see you are the one with the long post about the noise being the wall seen through the ghost. so now i understand what you are saying better. sorry for the misunderstanding.

Either way its not a man, that is an assumption of the story writer. While a trapeze artist or perhaps a male figure skater might wear those cuffs, the low waist "sash" is decidedly female. :)
 
So, is there any possibility there was an error with the two different rolls being processed in the same facility, and the person who took the photo of the figure is the one who disseminated the image? (getting an unexpected family portrait in their experimental art photography?)
Or can it only have been deliberately manipulated?
 
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