Does York woman’s photo reveal ghostly image of UFO? No.

On Thursday 23rd September 2010 an article appeared in a York local newspaper called The Press that centred upon the photograph below taken by a woman called Abbey while on holiday in Nuremberg.

In fairness to the owner of the photograph she does say that she could not explain the image and would like help. So, I thought I would help her.

I’m as sure as I can be that it is one of these:

google images

The article quotes:

“I was taking lots of photos to show people where we’d been, but when I got back into the car I noticed there was something on this one,“ said Abbey, who is currently studying at Newcastle University “I just though, ‘What it that? That looks weird’, and couldn’t work out what it was.”

“I thought it looked like a cherub,” said Bev, Abbey’s mother. “I also thought it looked a bit like a naked Buzz Lightyear toy, but could be a bee or an insect or something.”

This is a cherub

google images

This is buzz lightyear from the Pixar film ‘Toy Story’.

google images

The image is very clearly an example of the Pareidolia effect. The photograph appears to have been taken through a window of a building and the ‘fly’ as I will call it was high above the streets, close to the window which gives the impression that it is further away and larger than it is.

What are you most likely to see in the sky? A fly? A chubby faced innocent child? or Buzz Lightyear, a fictional character from the film Toy Story?

An even more worrying (and completely unrelated) statement is made at the end of the article:

Looking into the region online, Bev found there had been a fatal crash at an airshow near Nuremberg earlier this summer.

“There was a crash on September 5 where one person was killed and nearly 40 injured. It’s really odd,” said Bev.

I have no idea what association this has with a photograph of a fly but this inference seems to be an attempt to add some spiritual meaning to the photograph. I find this quite shocking and completely unsubstantiated.

You may wonder why I am wasting my time writing about a silly photograph in a local newspaper and I will explain.  These types of articles are very common and the media is powerful in influencing beliefs, and beliefs which are not reality tested can be dangerous.

I was in my local farm shop recently browsing the shelves when a very sweet little girl approached me and we struck up a conversation about the unusual vegetables on sale. During the conversation she pointed to the ceiling and asked me ‘is that a fairy’? I don’t have children and probably gave the wrong answer in terms of how one should communication with children to encourage their imagination, but I said the first thing that came into my head which was ‘no , its a fly’ (which it was!).

I like to think that I have sent that child on her path to rational thinking but I suppose I ruined her fantasy too. What harm is belief? Well, I think it is an essential aspect of human thinking to believe but I also think that blind believing can be dangerous to the psyche.  In order to explain this more serious point I would like to detail how I believe beliefs are formed.

Beliefs oscillate at all levels of consciousness in response to stimuli and are constantly interacting with the world around us. Many beliefs are developed in childhood as the child attempts to make sense of the world using somewhat limited powers of reasoning. As adults our mental health depends on our ability to reality test beliefs. If we cannot do this with any certainty then we become very vulnerable and impressionable, and will take on board others’ views of ourselves and of the world, treating all information as fact.

Hence, to give a crude example, an individual who has poorly developed powers of rationalism and is told by a parent that they are stupid, will take this assertion on board as fact, in other words form a belief that they are stupid and have no means to consider otherwise. Likewise, assertions in the media, for example, that the world will end in 2012 or that world leaders are aliens (thank you for that one David Icke) will be blindly believed in by individuals who have insufficent rational powers.

This sort of belief can and does lead to serious mental health problems. Beliefs are intricately constructed, largely outside of consciousness with influences from deep within the psyche and one’s experience of the outside world. When we do not learn to reality test information as we receive it, we form blind beliefs. This means that amongst other influences, our relationship with the material we read and see in the media has the power to directly influence our beliefs.  Beliefs have to be conscious before we can examine them, and without this essential process of rational thinking we are just naive.

Perhaps, you might think I am writing here about a small minority of people. As a psychotherapist with over 10 years of experience in supporting people with emotional distress of all severities I can tell you that damaging beliefs are present in every single one of the people I have worked with in the form of anything from poor self esteem to full blown psychotic delusion.

In healthy development, during our interactions with others, we develop the capacity to mentalize (Fonagy, 2006, p. 81). We learn that our views are subjective. This is an incredibly important skill which I will stick my neck out and say is often not present in those with a disregard for skepticism. I do not at all wish to say that Abbey or her mother have no powers of rationalism. I couldn’t possibly say this as I do not know them and I am certain that the newspaper has done them no favours in their presentation of this story. However, I do think that this article is just one example of the power of the media to create ridiculous beliefs.

“Belief systems arise within an interpersonal matrix and thus will be directly or indirectly relational in their assumptions” (Horner, 1997, p. 76).

The point that Horner makes so succinctly here is that our relationships with one another as a society influences our beliefs in a massive, unguarded way.  Not only do we form beliefs in relational interactions but we cognitively hold beliefs and guard them in order to protect the psyche from the loss of certainty which is inherent in life. Awareness of beliefs as beliefs furnishes the individual with the opportunity to reality test and re-evaluate beliefs. The media acts as a medium for persuasion because it is seen to be an authority. Herein lies the importance of scepticism.


Bentall, R. P. (2003). Madness Explained: Psychosis and Human Nature.  London: Penguin Books.

Britton, R. (1998). Belief and imagination. London: Routledge.

Fonagy, P. (2006). The mentalization-focused approach to social development. In J. Allen, & P. Fonagy (Eds.), Handbook of mentalization based treatment (pp. 53-77). London: Wiley.

Freud, S. (1955b). Group psychology and the analysis of the ego. In J. Strachey (Ed. and Trans.), The standard edition of the complete psychological works of Sigmund Freud, (Vol. 18, pp. 69-143). London: The Hogarth Press. (Original work published 1921).

Hinshelwood, R. D. (1987). What happens in groups: psychoanalysis, the individual and the community. London: Free Association Books Ltd.

Horner, A. J. (1997). Belief systems and the analytic work. American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 57, 75-79.

Jacobs, M. (2000). Illusion: A psychodynamic interpretation of thinking and belief. London: Whurr Publishers.

Roe, C. A. (1999). Critical thinking and belief in the paranormal: A re-evaluation. British Journal of Psychology, 90, 85-98.

Smith, M. D., Foster, C. L., & Stovin, G. (1998). Intelligence and paranormal belief: Examining the role of context. Journal of Parapsychology, 62, 65-77.


About Hayley Stevens

Hayley Stevens is a podcaster, blogger, writer, public speaker and ghost geek. She likes tea, cake, sci-fi books and being a humanist.

Posted on October 2, 2010, in article, feature, ghost, irrational, media, misattribution, paranormal, pop culture paranormal, rational. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. One would have to ask, if this is indeed a case of ignorance? Perhaps it is? Or perhaps it is a confusion over whether correlation does equal causation (not necessarilly so). IE: “I took an image I consider to be weird, and there was once an airshow disaster, there ergo the image itself is a direct result of that event”.

    It may even be a hoax. Taking a known phenomena and presenting it as a mysterious event, for fun, notoriety, fame or profit?

    What is clear however, is that it is nothing more than a fly.

    Nice article Francesca.

    • Well you say that, but I thought it was a remote control dragonfly when I first saw it. The shame…

      • Remote control Dragonfly? They surely must be mythical creatures!

        Bob, I think its perfectly possible that the airshow disaster coincidence added weight to the notion that something spiritual had been captured but it seems odd that their secondary theories were that the photo was of Buzz Lightyear or a cherub, neither of which have anything connection to airshows!?

        I would like to think that if this were a hoax it would have been more convincingly executed but maybe it takes less to mislead people than I estimate.

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