Okay, that headline might be a bit… misleading.
Let me tell you a fun story. It involves me and awsome others, solving the origins of a rather obvious fake, that is currently circling around facebook, Twitter and other sites. A good reminder that you can’t take anything for granted and that sometimes a little coincidence, and knowing the right people in the right places, can solve a lot of internet fakery.
It turns this story from, “it’s obviously a reflection” into “let me show you the room this picture was taken from”.
I noticed a facebook post this evening, that was shared by my skeptical friend, Tammy. She was rightly mocking of the post (below). Another friend shared it via messenger with equalled derision. Both, as I was, were sure this was the reflection of a lampshade.
Wait a second… 314,711* shares?! Are you serious? It’s clearly a reflection!
Well, I assume it is… I’ve seen skeptical bloggers do this over and over again. Often with ghost stories and sightings, and we never actually get to the bottom of the mystery. Often there’s nothing else you can do, as fakes are only known to the person committing them. But this felt like the other option; not fakery, but a genuine picture with a strange addition.
Yes, prior plausibility leaves you with the almost certainty that isn’t a UFO. But, “it looks like a ceiling light” wasn’t good enough for me tonight. I wanted to know where in Australia this image was taken. People are genuinely debating this picture on Facebook, twitter and other social media sites. I wanted to know this time, rather than just brushing it off as the non-UFO it seems to be.
I took the image to Google reverse image search, which eventually lead me a thread on reddit. Just to add, Google image search is offen a skeptics best friend and shouldn’t be forgotten when dealing with pictures.
Reddit is not familiar territory for me, but I found this under the image:
Well, that’s worth looking into. I’d just assumed that it was Australia. An odd detail to change, but that just goes to show you can’t take these things at face value! I certainly had no reason to doubt it. Australia does exist!
I checked Jackson Hole, Wyoming on Facebook. I just wanted to get an idea of the place. I’d never heard of it before. What I wasn’t expecting was for one of the few people in the world who I admire to actually live and be taking a work sabbatical there, Dr. Rachel Dunlop!!
Dr. Rachie helped me immensely. For starters, by finding the location based on the initial image. She enlisted the help of a local, James Metcalf, who knows the area well:
You can see the tree line matches the original image. The beautiful mountains aren’t visible in the original image, due to the thunderstorm. The storm also seems to match the dates of the posting on reddit (16-18 July). I couldn’t be completely sure on the dates, and of course the image could have been much older. That said, there was a thunderstorm that weekend and Dr. Rachie confirmed there’s been a lot of storm activity recently.
From above, you can see that the foreground is actually an island. Again, not something I’d noted from the original image. The mountains are some way off, on the other side of Jackson Lake.
Oh, and this is a picture from inside one of the lodges at Signal Mountain:
This is one of the one bed cabins available on the lake shore. I’d originally thought this was the right light, but it appears that an enlarged image of the lamp shows animal and human figures, which I hadn’t noticed at first. It turns out to be a cowboy styled light, available from this website and pictured below:
It didn’t take a great deal of work to figure this all out, although it wouldn’t have been possible without Dr. Rachie. Despite that, this is still being shared like crazy on Facebook and is now up to *346,476 shares (up 31,765)** just in the time I’ve written this!
Please, people. This is not only an obvious fake (not real, anyway), but between me in England and Dr. Rachie in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, we’ve shown how much of an erroneous conclusion “UFO” is for this image. Don’t believe everything you read on Facebook, obviously!
As a side point, facebook aren’t going to remove a picture like this. Why would they? No crime has been committed, no one is being directly harmed. I say “directly” because sharing images like this and believing them on face valve, clearly harms our collective intelligence!
To quote a friend from facebook,
‘”Facebook are trying to remove it“. I like to think there is an office in the basement at Facebook where one member of staff is trying to get to the bottom of the millions of UFO pictures appearing on their website, briefly before being removed, but shadowy figures above him in the company hierarchy are pulling the strings and keeping the truth from the public.”
Update 13/08/2015 – Exact location found!
With a bit more free time and a helpful lead from “Nippa” (see comments) I’ve been trawling through google images to find the exact location. Which has been found! “Nippa” put me onto the right track with an image from the area, but the exact location wasn’t unambiguous.
The Peaks Resturant’s upper floor looks like this:
The view from the ground floor is (roughly) below. I’d already spent sometime trying to identify a view across the lake that included the single tree that you see in the Facebook UFO image. I hadn’t accounted for the image not being taken at street level. If you account for the picture being from the first floor, it allows for the single tree and no other bank side clutter.
Credit to Rachael’s friend, James Metcalf, from the Jackson area, who helped track down the exact location.
Thank you, Nippa Downey, for helping us finish this journey!
** At the time of this edit (12th Aug 2015 – 18:40 – There’s now been 508,707 shares.
Update – 17/08/2015: It’s now been shared over 850,000 times on Facebook! If you see it, please share this link with your friends!