© 2012 David Bledsoe

The Magical Time Traveling Camera

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)




  1. You're hired!
    Posted May 28, 2012 at 9:04 pm | #

    Nice work internet detective. Did you consider the possibility that the grandma misremembered the date, the reporter mistranscribed the date, or that the dead uncle had a photo taken of him with a girl he once dated after they stopped dating that his mom didn’t know about?

    Fashions don’t look ’88, but they don’t look quite like late 70’s either. Given it’s Kansas, mid-80’s fashion is a distinct possibility.

  2. FreeVerse Photography
    Posted May 28, 2012 at 10:37 pm | #

    It’s entirely possible the dates are wrong but in the end, it isn’t the family’s story I had a problem with. The reporters made this out as some sort of miracle when it is quite mundane. Whether or not the photo was in the camera as claimed, or the entire story is utterly fabricated, the reporter should have done the work so we wouldn’t need to.

  3. You're hired!
    Posted May 29, 2012 at 10:13 pm | #

    Finding a camera at a random garage sale with a picture of your long dead relative is “mundane?” I want to live in your world.

  4. Pesla
    Posted May 30, 2012 at 10:48 am | #

    This was printed in a newspaper…where the news is. The real news, and I agree the reporter should have done some kind of research, I mean, make a phone call. You aren’t picking on the family, you are picking on the inability of local newspaper reporters to get any facts at all. Most people gulp this stuff up without questioning it, weather it is some heartfelt story or a hard hitting article.

    The inquisitive shall conquer the world :o)

  5. FreeVerse Photography
    Posted May 30, 2012 at 12:10 pm | #

    I tried very hard not criticize the family, it’s there story and they can tell it however they wish. Indeed, I was an inventive youngster myself. The paper should be ashamed to run this kind of stuff.

  6. You're hired!
    Posted May 31, 2012 at 12:55 am | #

    “The lad allegedly discovered…”

    “…it’s a cute little story the kid told his grandmother.”

    “Indeed, I was an inventive youngster myself.”

    …sure make it sound like you’re criticizing the boy.

    Could the kid be lying? Of course.
    Could the 60+ year old grandma be off on her dates? Possible.
    Could the reporter have mis-transcribed the dates grandma said? Read any news story about a topic you’re familiar with and you’ll know how very possible that is.
    Could someone have stuck an incompatible photo in the cartridge? As you admit and a commenter on the Eagle story confesses, it’s not out of the question.

    My point, and this goes for internet detectives in every field, is that you can’t take a few facts you can deduce (the date of introduction of the camera or that the camera couldn’t have taken that photo) and immediately judge the veracity of the whole story. The “accumulated intellectual minutia” of the “pedantic ass[es]” on the internet can still jump to incorrect conclusions.

    And even though you also don’t have any evidence that they didn’t fact check the story (they could’ve found the very same information you did, but when everything else checked out, decided such technical nitpicking didn’t merit mention,) I’m with you, I’d also rather the newspaper fact check a little more. But given limited news gathering resources, I’d rather even more that they spend their fact checking time on real news stories.

  7. JennaDee
    Posted June 23, 2012 at 2:33 pm | #

    ok – maybe you’re right. But if he is fibbing, let the kid and his family have their damn miracle. It isn’t like the other mainstream news sources we’ve been subject to for the past century has been any more trustworthy.

One Trackback

  1. […] Dave Bledsoe over at FreeVerse Photography writes that there may be something fishy going on with this story. His argument is that the camera found […]

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