Waterman showed his children the photo, whom he said immediately noticed the face, before sending it to Andrew Ayres, who has been in charge of Ghost Hunter Tours for two decades.
“It’s a really good one, we get stuff like this all the time but that’s an exceptional one,” Ayres said. “It’s the afterwards that you get the evidence, those photographs are reviewed later. You’ve got the little boy on the Ouija board, communicating, and then you’ve got this of what’s quite clearly a little person. We run voice recorders during the experiment and people tend to put headphones on and review the recordings and you’d be amazed at what comes out, you get spirit voices saying, ‘it’s me’.”
Although Ghost Hunter Tours is a for-profit venture which employs 60 staff and runs 400 to 500 paranormal investigations a year, Ayres insists that their outings are done on a “serious level” and they encourage the guests to investigate the paranormal for themselves.
“It’s done on a serious level as it’s a paranormal investigation, no one is jumping out of wardrobes or anything like that. We do get people who get freaked out, but a lot of people are really into it. It’s a strange sensation, people say they feel quite comforted by the stories that come out,” he said. “We tell people we don’t want them to be scared, we want them to be positive and open minded. We want them to enjoy it, people enjoy being scared but that’s not what it’s all about.”
“We make the guests do the investigating bit, if someone’s watching me then they’ve got to take my word for it, I could be making it up. That’s why we push for them to do it,” he added.
Opinions of the photograph are mixed, with some who have viewed it convinced it could represent an otherworldly presence, while others dismiss it as mere pareidolia—the tendency to perceive a specific, often meaningful, image in a random or ambiguous visual pattern.
Emily Wayland, the Singular Fortean Society’s resident photo and video analyst, said that while it’s impossible to say with certainty, she thinks it’s possible that the face might be the result of pareidolia.
“I think this could be light reflecting off of dust or something that resulted in pareidolia creating the appearance of a face, although we can’t know for sure,” she said. “The image quality isn’t good enough for me to say much more.”
To those who do see something but are skeptical of ghosts and hauntings, the face might be written off as pareidolia.
Pareidolia, however, explains only the how of an anomalous image, not the why.
Tobias Wayland, the Singular Fortean Society’s head writer, editor, and lead investigator, wonders if perhaps there might still be something strange going on.
“What if pareidolia is simply one of the means through which paranormal entities communicate?” he asked.
“Imagine ‘spiritual’ beings that exist on the level of human consciousness, and what they might need to do to communicate with us,” Tobias continued.
Sure, they could ‘speak’ to us directly through dreams or visions, but how would they make a visible, physical appearance? Maybe human consciousness interacts with the paranormal in such a way that sometimes the end result is physical reality acting in accordance with our expectations regarding paranormal events, and maybe that explains the pareidolic images associated with certain phenomena—like ghosts, cryptids, or religious images.
In essence, we’re directed by paranormal phenomena to interpret carefully constructed—but seemingly random—stimuli in a way that allows us to ‘see’ a physical representation of something that is only psychically present.
“Although it could be imagination and wishful thinking, too, in some cases,” he added. “Maybe even in this case. The real challenge is discerning between these possibilities, although in this case, I do find it interesting how closely the image matches the narrative of those present. I can see how it would be a powerful experience to believe you were communicating with the spirit of a young boy, only to later find what appears to be the face of one in a photo taken at the same location.”