The Wichita Eagle posted a story about 13 year old boy who purchased a Polaroid camera at a yard sale and discovered the it contained a photograph of his Uncle who died twenty years prior to the purchase. The lad allegedly discovered the photograph in the pack of film still inside the camera. The story is a feel good fluff piece with just a twist of the potential supernatural, the bread and butter of local news filler. Then the story found it’s way to Fark.com, where I discovered it.
What caught my eye was the camera with the boy in the Eagle’s photo should not have produced the style of print allegedly discovered. The square format Polaroid film was exclusive to older model Polaroids called Pack Film cameras. Even if you are not familiar with photography, you have probably seen old films and television where the photographer pulls the photo out, peels apart the paper and the print develops. The kind of camera feature in the photograph with the boy produced the more familiar 600 Film which spit out the front of the camera. Something wasn’t right.
I went to The Land List and started digging. None of the cameras produced in the time the photo was allegedly taken (1978 or 1979) looked remotely like the camera featured in the photograph. The first year ANY 600 film camera was made in was 1981, still two years after this photo and definitely NOT a pack film camera. With some more digging, I was able to identify the camera in the photo as a Polaroid Impulse, first manufactured in 1988, a full decade after the magical mystery photo.
Pack film cameras are still in use today, though on Fuji continues producing the film. Polaroid discontinued 600 Film in 2008, though the Impossible Project has successfully resurrected it. The photo portrayed as being found in the camera has all the hallmarks of being an old photograph, scarred and scratched from years of being handled, yellowing slightly with age, it most likely IS a photograph from 1979. It’s the story that is completely bogus.
Now, it may seem like I am attacking a 13 year old boy for making up utter bullshit about finding an old photograph. I’m not, it’s a cute little story the kid told his grandmother. I AM attacking the reporter of the Wichita Eagle who for one, utterly failed to fact check a story, (It took me ten minutes to track down the information on the camera and film) and two never thought the staggering odds of this story’s veracity even merited such a check. I see no evidence the reporter ever considered for a second this story might not be entirely kosher.
Also, I am pointing out that ANY wild story you tell in this Internet age which ends up in the paper will find some pedantic ass like I me to pick it apart. The Internet is made for various, nerds, geeks, buffs, collectors and sticklers to host their accumulated intellectual minutia. If your story involves extraordinary claims, as this one does, there had better be extraordinary evidence to back it up. If the evidence presented is so transparent it can be picked apart in ten minutes, you might be better off keeping the story to yourself.
This little tale of a miracle photo of a long dead relative should never have recorded in the media, it should be a cute little story passed around the family. I’ve been nice and not mentioned names or rehosted the photos (which I am well within my rights to do) so the author of the tale and article can be held up to ridicule. There are plenty who have no such qualms.
In the end, kids tell tall tales and that is normal. Newspapers, even the little ones, should know better than to repeat them.
Addendum: After giving some thought to this story, it is possible someone placed a photo taken on an older camera back in the empty film pack and then placed it inside the camera. It would be a strange thing to do, but NOT a miracle. In the end, the way the author of the piece wrote the story tries very hard to make this a “miracle”. It isn’t, the best case is a very odd happenstance the worst case is pure fabrication.
(Edited 5/28/12 2:40 PM EDT)