Photo analysis: Mecca Bingo anomaly
BARsoc were recently contacted by Gavin ‘Fox’ Marriner, a member of ‘The Ghost Club’ and a mature psychology student at Goldsmiths (who works with the APRU from time to time). As a member of ‘The Ghost Club’, which is ‘the oldest organisation in the world associated with psychical research’, Gavin took part on a paranormal investigation held by the club at The Mecca Bingo Hall in Morden, London last weekend.
He reported that he had taken a photograph while sitting in the disused upper circle of the old cinema which still sits above the bingo hall below. Nothing unusual was seen until he looked at the hundreds of photos he had taken afterwards and spotted an anomaly that he couldn’t explain in one of the photos.
Surprisingly, when Gavin contacted The Ghost Club, for whom he is a paying member, and who had actually organised the paranormal investigation he reports that “[he] thought they would want to discuss the photograph, but they completely swept it under the carpet and would not even entertain the idea that it was strange”.
After speaking to representatives from The Ghost Club is has become apparent that an opinion was offered from their investigation organiser but it was deemed by Gavin to be dismissive. I discuss this further in the article but firstly I want to detail the examination of the anomaly.
I think it’s important to point out that Gavin wasn’t claiming the anomaly to be paranormal in nature, he simply couldn’t work out what was causing the effect. This is the information we were provided with about the photo:
“The area was almost completely unlit (fire exit lights only), and flash was used in each photo taken. The camera was a GE Z150 10.1 megapixel hand held, and the photo’s were taken without the use of zoom or other custom picture settings.
[The anomaly] sits almost dead centre of the photograph, poking out between the blue wooden panels which form the back rest/banister for the old cinema seating. The anomaly itself seems to be half of a smokey edged orb. This is especially strange, as to my knowledge, orbs (which are just particles caught in the flash as we know) do not usually have such smokey edges, and are almost never seen obscured by intervening objects such as this one is. If you zoom in, you can clearly see that it is indeed obscured behind the panel as I have described, and this has me puzzled. I have tried not to get to caught up in debates about what the image looks like, a face or head or whatever, or if there indeed does indeed appear to be an eye poking through the blue wooden paneling near it (which can admittedly be seen when it is zoomed in on a large screen) but I am stumped as to what is causing the effect.”
Here are the original photos, click each to view larger version – the first with the anomaly and the second taken from the other side of the blue barriers showing where the anomaly was ‘poking through the barriers’ from. I have also included smaller copies of the photos that have been circled to help you see the anomaly and the area in the comparison photo.
The conclusion we have reached is that the anomaly in question is actually just the arms of the fold up cinema seats causing an illusion because of the angle from which the photo was taken in relation to the style in which the seats (and thus, the seat arms) curve around with the room.
Don’t just take our word for it though. BARsoc researcher, Bob, examined the CCD information from the anomaly photograph. For those who do not know, a CCD is an analog device and when light strikes the chip it is held as a small electrical charge in each photo sensor. These charges are converted to voltage one pixel at a time as they are read from the chip, additional circuitry in the camera converts the voltage into digital information which produces graphs like the one below:
With the knowledge that the camera flash was used when taking the photo in Fig 1, and the image in Fig 4 mapping the light intensity, it becomes clear that the architecture of the room itself has something to do with the effect seen in the photo. The walls are curved and tall and there are numerous large and flat surfaces coated with gloss paint. This would have effected the flash refraction.
When the photo is lightened, the arms of the seats become much more clearer to see and when you consider the angle from which the photo was taken it’s easy to understand how the seats may have been mistaken for something independent in the area indicated in Fig. 3 due to the photographers perspective of the area.
It was quite an easy photo to analyse as independent researchers who hadn’t been present on the investigation and we were glad that we were able to offer Gavin an answer that satisfied his curiosity about what he had photographed.
I do acknowledge that The Ghost Club have told me that they did offer an opinion about the photograph and I do not believe that Gavin approaching BARsoc should be seen as a negative action. However I feel that perhaps the opinion offered to Gavin about his photograph may have been interpreted as dismissive or suggestive, (i.e. there is an eye in the picture which is actually just pixellation).
When BARsoc are approached with something that somebody wants our opinion on we provide as much dialogue and detail in our analysis as we can. I feel it is important to make sure the person who has asked for your help is well-informed and even made part of the analysis process.
Paranormal investigation is a huge, diverse field with people approaching it from many different angles. Putting aside for now the fact that many of these approaches are incorrect or flawed, the one thing all paranormal investigators have in common is the fact that people view investigators as sources of information and with this comes responsibility.
When somebody has a weird experience or has captured something odd on film or tape, they’re going to see a paranormal investigator or society as a possible source for help. Especially when said paranormal investigator/society has an impressive past as The Ghost Club does.
If contact is made with an investigator for their opinion or help – be it from a member of an organisation or a member of the public – ensuring they are happy with the information they are presented by way of analysis is vitally important and can have an unethical effect if done incorrectly, depending on the circumstances.
It took BARsoc no more than half an hour to analyse the photo (Fig 1.) and produce the graphs, images and explanation we provided. We are always willing to help people regardless of their backgrounds or belief systems and we are always happy to offer second opinions.
No pseudoscience, no superstition, no nonsense.