Faces in Smoke

Comments about some World Trade Center "mysteries"
The Fake Detective

     It's not uncommon for The Fake Detective to be asked about pictures of ghosts, even though such pictures are far from his area of expertise.  Nevertheless, we were very surprised by the number of questions that have come up about the World Trade Center tragedy - and faces of "demons" some people believe they are seeing in the smoke.

     The first picture to generate questions is the one below:

     People looking at this picture quickly began to see the face of a "demon" below the explosive cloud on the left.  They began posting messages on the Internet newsgroups as early as the same day of the disaster, and the pace grew rapidly from there.

     To The Fake Detective and his staff, it looks more like the smoke formed an image of a cartoon mouse, in a way similar to how clouds in the sky can sometimes seem to form images of bunny rabbits and elephants and other familiar creatures and objects.  We all saw them as kids.

     But few others on the Internet saw the images in the explosion as an image of a cartoon mouse.    One poster asked the very basic question:

     And people in the discussions soon began to ask whether it was actually the face of a demon.  A demon?!  The question seemed to show that we were no very far from our cave man ancestors in our thinking when we are afraid.  People saw faces in smoke and thought they might be demons.  People today apparently haven't advanced as far in their thought processes as we might have believed.

     Someone else saw the smoke cloud differently and posted this analysis after the Rev. Jerry Falwell declared that the attack was God's punishment for accepting gays into our society:

   Was the image proof that the Telly Tubbies Jerry Falwell had previously attacked as being "gay" were agents of the devil?

      It seems a big stretch in logic, but when talking about seeing demonic faces in smoke, logic automatically goes out the window.

     But then a debate over another "face" began.  This one:

     If you can't spot it, here's a closeup:

     People began asking: Is this the face of God?  Is it the face of the Devil?  One bulletin board for a Denver TV station actually had hundreds of messages about it.  While most disbelieved it was nothing more than a chance image formed from smoke, others weren't convinced.  The discussion raged for days.

     When The Fake Detective was asked about it, he searched through the Net for other pictures of faces formed by clouds of smoke and dust and presented this one:

     Non-believers were amused.  People who believe in ghosts and goblins and others who believe that no form of humor is appropriate at times like this were not amused.

     Ah, well.  We've all learned long ago that you can't satisfy everyone.

     But there was one "mystery" that we did wonder about.  Unfortunately, it has not yet been resolved.  It was about the object streaking across the sky in the pictures below:

     When the second aircraft hit the second tower, there are video shots that clearly show an engine had continued on moving, traveling straight through the building and out the other side, taking with it some flaming debris.

     But this odd streak seems to be coming from the first tower, and the second tower wasn't hit until 18 minutes after the first.  So the streak couldn't have come from any flying debris from the first hit.

     Fortunately, the streak is moving away from the building, so suggestions that it could have been some kind of anti-aircraft missle were easily discounted.

     Was the video taken through a dirty window with a streak on it that moves because the camera moves?  Was it a piece of a wing flipped away at an angle that makes it look like it came from the first tower?  Was it some debris blown from the first tower by a secondary explosion 18 minutes after it was first hit?

     Or is it just some defect in the camera or in the playback equipment?  That seems very likely.

     It's been pointed out that there is very little difference between the pictures except for the streak.   The explosions barely move.  Assuming there isn't any trickery involved, that should mean that the frames are consecutive.  At 30 frames per second, the four frames represent just over one tenth of a second.  The Towers were about 1,000 feet high, so the streaks appear to have moved over 500 feet during that time.  That means the "object" moved at roughly 2 miles per second, or 120 miles per minute, or 7,200 mph.  Not even a guided missle moves that fast inside the atmosphere.   And if the "object" is actually in the sky behind the towers - and further away - it's going even faster.  More likely it's either something very close to the camera - or it's a defect in the camera or playback equipment.

     It's a mystery that remains unsolved.  But it's not a big mystery.  So, as far as we're concerned it can remain unsolved.  Or it can be solved by others who have more resources to analyze camera and playback equipment defects.

     June 20, 2002, updated:  We've learned since that time that there is a web site dedicated to pictures of this type with images of many "flying rods".  The images are HERE.

    Our hearts go out to the victims of this horrendous atrocity, and in no way do we want these odd "mysteries" to belittle what happened.  We merely created this web page as an easy way to respond to the questions we've been getting.

     While we've tried to resist it, we are getting so many questions about the picture below (with the face blotted out by us) that we have to add it to this page.

     The first thing anyone looking at this obvious fake should see is that the man in the picture is wearing winter clothing.  The WTC disaster happened at the end of summer, on a warm, sunny day.

     Then you can question the fact that the lighting on the aircraft doesn't match the cold dark shadow lighting of a winter day as seen on the railing beside the man.  And the aircraft would be going at about 300 miles per hour, which would cause it to be blurred in any normal photograph.  In addition, both aircraft which struck the towers impacted while their wings were tilted at an angle - not flying straight and level as seen here.  It's clear that the plane and the date were simply added to a photograph taken at some other time - possibly years ago.

     And, of course, the fact that the picture exists at all is suspect.  If the camera had survived the fall and was found in the debris of the collapsed towers (as the story accompanying the fake says) it would be a major news find and would be on all TV stations.   It wouldn't just appear on e-mails and web sites.  (The fact that it was reprinted in the infamous British tabloid Daily Sport only confirms that it is a fake.)

     It's not the kind of thing The Fake Detective would turn into a "case", but we get bombarded with questions whenever a controversial fake of almost any kind appears on the Net.  This is no exception.  The questions continue to pour in.  So, to ease our workload, we'll just point them to this page where we've put our opinions.  In our opinion, the picture is an obvious fake.

    Perhaps there can be nor more conclusive evidence than what others have pointed out to us:

     So, if there is any question left, it should be answered by the above pictures.  Is it likely that the guy in the fake photograph taken from the SOUTH Tower would appear so calm in a picture was supposedly taken 18 minutes after the North Tower was hit just a few hundred yards away?  Hardly.  Plus, of course, it shows the plane coming from the north, and the plane that hit the South Tower came from the South.  Plus, the observation deck was not yet open for the day at the time to the attack.  Etc., etc.

     In summary, since The Fake Detective and his staff do not believe in ghosts, or goblins or devils or that such creatures appear in the smoke of explosions, we consider the "faces in smoke" to be simple optical illusions, much like a Rorschach Test, i.e., the same kinds of objects can be seen in ink blots that are used by psychologists to help us understand what we really think and really believe.

     The fake is just a standard fake from some jerk who enjoys being tasteless and insensitive - a very popular pastime these days among the immature in some circles.

A comment by
The Fake Detective and his staff
Sept. 21, 2001 - revised Sept. 25, 2001 & Sept. 27, 2001 & June 20, 2002
Contact: detect@newsguy.com

(c) 2001-2002 by Ed Lake - All Rights Reserved