Source: Daily Mail
In a tabloid story widely shared on social media, we see two photographs taken seconds apart. In the first photo there's a girl looking at the camera, taking a selfie. The camera is reflected in her sunglasses, her hair seems to be blowing in a breeze.
In the next photo, taken seconds later, the image is pretty much the same, the camera has moved slightly, and the hair and background outside the car have moved, but now we see the image of what looks like the head of a boy with a high forehead, and curly brown hair.
The girl in the photo is Harper Kurz, her mother, Melissa Kurtz, tells the story like this:
In thinking about what might be going on here it's useful to remember Occam's Razor - often stated as "the simplest explanation is the best", but actually is more like "the explanation that adds the fewest new things is the best".
'I didn’t notice it until about a month later when I was going through my camera when taking pictures for something else.
'It was a real "Oh my god" moment. I was really shocked by it, incredibly shocked. I ran into the other room and said to friends who were staying with me "you have to see this". Everyone was awestruck.
'I think it’s very important to the world to see that picture because I know it’s genuine and real and we were the only two in the car.
So let's look at five competing hypotheses (proposed explanations) here, listed with the most simplest explanation first, and the least likely explanation last
- There was a boy in the car, and Melissa lied about it
- There was a boy in the car, and Melissa and Harper forgot about him
- There was no boy in the car, the image is of something else blowing around in the back seat
- It's a fake photo
- There was no boy in the car, it's a photo of something supernatural
So, #1 and #2 are variants of the same thing. A boy was in the car, he leaned across and reached forward between the two photo so he appears in one but not the other. Then Melissa either forgot about him being there, or she lied about it. So why are these the simplest explanations?
They are simply because they introduce nothing new of extraordinary to the world, they simply rely on typical events that we know happen all the time. Boys get rides in cars. People lie for a variety of reasons. People forget things. It does not really matter if it's #1 or #2, and they are really pretty close in terms of which is the most likely. I chose the #1 (lie) simply because it seems easier to get two people to agree on a lie than to get two people to exactly misremember the same event for which there is photographic evidence (i.e. the photo should jog their memory as to who the boy is)
So what's the evidence for #1 or #2? Well Melissa uploaded high resolution version of the photos to facebook, so we can get a closer look than the tabloid versions:
It passably looks like a child, although there's not really enough visible to be sure. Assuming it is a child, the interesting thing is that they actually ARE visible in the first photo - at least a portion of their arm or shoulder is - you can see what seems to be the sweatshirt just poking over the seat:
So that all seems very consistent with #1 and #2 - it looks like there was a child leaning over, and reaching to grab the seat as they did so.
So that seems the simplest explanation, but what of the others, what about #3: "something else blowing around in the car". Something like mylar balloons, a plastic bag, or a dress.
This is more complex because it requires us to to image something that precisely forming into the shapes we see in the photo, something that resembles a human head and two fingers. Something that seems to have the correct three dimensional shape (for the reflection on the forehead) and the skin tone.
But the "boy" explanation in #1 and #1 is not entirely solid either. We don't get a clear look, and when you zoom in, it's unclear (the focus seems correct though, that's not a clue, just makes it harder to see what it is). Look closer.
The skin tone does look a bit odd. And does the shape of the face really make sense? It's qute hard to mirror it in a way that forms a good head:
So it's a little hard to see this as a boy up close, but I think it's easier than seeing something that randomly blew into that spot, hence I've put it at #3
#4 (fake photo) is of course possible - we've seen amazing things done in photoshop. But if it's a fake it's an incredibly good fake. Melissa even went to great pains to show the image as an in-camera original - posting shots of the image in the camera with the camera data.
So what of #5 - a ghost, something supernatural. Well that require us introducing something incredibly complex, and entirely new world of science: life-after death with spirits returning to walk the earth, and one in particular appearing for a fraction of a second to warn a girl to wear her seatbelt via a photo they would not look at for months.
It simply makes the least sense, and is something we should only resort to if we can definitively prove that none of the simpler explanations are correct.
[Update] The location was described in The Sun as:
That matches this location:The image was taken in July this year on a highway in the Maitland area of Florida, near Orlando, when Melissa, a photographer and writer, was driving Harper to a junior beauty pageant, where she eventually placed fourth.
And given they are facing south, the sun's position makes it around 5PM. So that part of their story seems correct.