PREFACE: One of the greatest burdens that UFO investigators have to bear, in the course of their collecting and investigating sighting reports submitted by members of the public, is the deluge of apparently false reports and cases of mistaken identity that have to be “waded” through, and eliminated from, the stream of incoming data. What prompts people to create and submit bogus reports is unclear to this author, save for the apparently widespread lack of self-discipline, and lack of concern for others, that seems all too common in mankind. However, the fact remains that such deception takes place constantly, and that it probably will continue in ufology, and elsewhere, until long after we have finally laid to rest the mystery of UFOs.
Over the course of the last two months, the National UFO Reporting Center has received five photographs, which we assume are part of a hoax, but a hoax that appears to us to be so well planned and orchestrated that I have elected to make it the subject of my column this month. In discussing this issue, I intend principally to share with the reader 1) the extent that some people will go to in order to mislead others, and 2) how new technology now permits the creation of rather convincing hoaxes, while avoiding detection. Also, in addressing this incident, it is my hope that one of our readers will be able to share insight into the presumed deception, and what the origin of this possible hoax may be.
I would like to emphasize that I do not wish to imply here that the individuals who submitted photos to our offices are intentional participants in a hoax. We have spoken with at least two of them, and exchanged email with all of them, and they seemed to us to be both sincere, and genuinely confused by how their photos could have recorded the creature’s images in question. If what I discuss here is a prank, the people who submitted the photos appear to us to be as much victims of the deception as NUFORC may be, and that they quite probably had nothing to do with the apparent prank.
FIRST PHOTOGRAPH: On February 7, 2013, NUFORC received a telephone call from a young woman in Austin, Texas, who stated that three days earlier, she had taken a photograph of her living room, and that when she later viewed the photo, she was shocked to see a small, strange-looking creature in the photo. (Please see Photo #1.) She emphasized that she had not been aware of the entity, at the time the photo was taken, and that she had no idea where the creature had come from. Her impression was that it had not been visible, even momentarily, at the time of the photo, but that she could not be certain of that fact.
We examined the photo, as best we were able, and we had two experienced photographers examine it. Both of them were of the opinion that the photo is a composite, created by the insertion of the creature’s image, after the photo had been taken. They based their opinions on the facts that 1) the shadow created by the creature appeared to be inconsistent with the shadows seen elsewhere in the frame, and 2) the pixilation of the creature’s image differed slightly from that in the rest of the photo. Other possible inconsistencies were cited by both photographers.
SECOND PHOTOGRAPH: Several days later, the source of the first photo submitted a second one, which apparently had been taken at night, and which showed a somewhat similar creature, although one that was demonstrably different from the one seen in the first photo. (Please see Photo #2.)
This second photo appeared to us to be even less convincing than the first, a suspicion that was reinforced by the opinions of the same two photographers whom we had commissioned to inspect both of them.
THIRD PHOTOGRAPH: NUFORC had all but laid to rest the issue of the peculiar photos, when on March 10, we received yet another photograph, taken of a young woman reclining on a couch, with the same creature evident in it. Although the photo appeared to have anomalies in it, it appeared to have come from a different source than that of the first two photos, although we are unable to certify its independence from the first person to submit her photos. (Please see Photo #3.)
However, seeming to undermine the authenticity of this third photo was the fact that its source never responded to our several requests for more information. From experience, we have come to recognize such unwillingness to respond to reasonable requests for documentation as a sign of probable intended deception.
Hence, as interesting as these first three photographs appeared to be, we abandoned any further efforts to recover more information about them, assuming that they were the product of an attempt to ensnare NUFORC into accepting, and disseminating, hoaxed data.
FOURTH REPORT (photo not received): On Tuesday, March 12, NUFORC received a telephone call from a woman in Florida, who asserted that her daughter had taken a sequence of, she thought, 15 photographs, and that a strange little creature was evident in two of the photos, in the middle of the sequence. When I asked her to describe the creature, her description indicated a creature quite similar to what the earlier photographs had shown.
However, the caller did not follow up on the report, and no photos were forwarded to NUFORC.
FIFTH PHOTOGRAPH: On April 4, NUFORC received a telephone call from a very eloquent sounding young woman, who asserted that she had just received a photograph from her fiancé, which exhibited the image of a very strange-looking creature. She claimed that, at 6 p.m. on March 21, 2013, the man had taken a photo of his daughter, who was sitting on a chair in the Fort Myers Airport terminal, at the time, and was shocked to see the creature in the photo. (Please see Photo #5.)
The young woman who called emphasized that her fiancé was a very serious-minded, and quite reliable, individual, and her strong impression was that he would not attempt to mislead her intentionally with a bogus photograph.
SIXTH PHOTOGRAPH: On April 5, NUFORC received a sixth, and final, photograph, from a source that chose not to include personal or contact information, save for his email address. (Please see Photo #6.)
In a follow-up message, he apologized for having submitted the photo, stating that he had discovered that it was the product of an application for mobile devices, which allowed people to download photos of “aliens” into their photographs. He identified the application as “camera360,” with an “…alien effect, available to (owners of) Android devices.”
At the date of this writing, the author has not been able to confirm the existence of such an application, although we have found an application for taking 360-degree panorama-style photos. That program, however, does not appear to have anything to do with caricatures of aliens, however.
CONCLUSION: As the author has implied above, we suspect that the photos may be part of a sophisticated, and well-orchestrated, hoax. However, if it is a hoax, it does not appear to be one that has been knowingly engaged in by the individuals who have submitted the photographs to our offices. Those individuals appear to be as sincerely mystified by the content of their photos as NUFORC is!
If the sources of the photos are not knowing and willing participants in some type of intentional deception, the principal remaining mystery is how the images of the strange creature can be inserted into photographs taken with cell phones. Perhaps there is a virus-like piece of software that can be introduced into a cell phone’s software, a possibility that we are unable to rule out definitively. However, both of the two photographers who inspected the photos are baffled by such a possibility. If the photos are the result of some type of deception, it is important, I believe, to call to the attention of the UFO community the fact that the technical capabilities of pranksters has taken a quantum leap forward!
There are other several other observations about the photos, and the manner in which they have been submitted to NUFORC, that I intentionally have not discussed here. The observations pertain to elements of the photos that might prove useful for future assessment of any photos which may be submitted for future analysis. These observations do not pertain to the pixilation of the photos, which, without question, appears to be suspicious, but rather, to other aspects of the photos that we have received, to date.
If any of the readers have any comments about the peculiar phenomenon, or what might be the cause of it, we invite them to submit comments to Director@UFOCenter.com. NUFORC would like to resolve the mystery that seems to linger around this peculiar phenomenon!
(We express our sincere gratitude to Mr. Michael Bradtke, an experienced photographer from Deland, Florida, and to Mr. Ray-Paul Nielsen, of Ray Paul Photography, in Seattle, Washington, for their technical assistance in the preparation of this article. Mr. Nielsen has served as the official photographer for NUFORC for more than a decade.)