Moundsville Shadow Man Investigation

Investigation of the Shadow Man Ghost Picture
by Louis Charles

In 2006, my son and I interviewed Polly Gear of Mountaineer Ghosts Paranormal Investigators on site at the haunted Moundsville prison, also known as the West Virginia State Penitentiary. Polly is known for capturing the now famous Moundsville Shadow Man ghost picture. After seeing her ghost photo “debunked” on national television by SyFy's Ghost Hunters (TAPS) in October 2006, I felt her story and photograph of the shadow man were wrongly discredited. The Moundsville prison episode unfortunately caused many ghost investigators to assume the shadow man image is not an authentic ghost photograph. Realizing that there was much more to this story, I wanted to meet and interview Polly in person. Polly agreed to meet with us in West Virginia, allowing us to examine the shadow man picture and guiding us to the exact location of the sighting in order to compare it to the re-creation and findings of TAPS. See the Moundsville Shadow Man Photos.

Polly Gear's Account of the Moundsville Shadow Man
It was amazing to hear Polly’s description of coming face to face with the shadow man. As she entered a small hallway leading to the cafeteria, Polly encountered the shadow ghost. She described the figure as looking like moving, black static (like on a TV screen) and without a defined face or hands. Shaped like a man, the ghost was moving down the hall toward her while looking out the windows. When she shined her flashlight on the shadow man (at this point she began backing up and away toward a bigger hallway), the light went through the ghost. The shadow man looked at the light going through his body and was visibly spooked, moving back and into the doorway corner. Incredibly, Polly had the presence of mind to take the flashlight off of him and turn her camera on while continuing to move backward and away from the smaller hallway. She hoped her actions would cause the ghost to move out of the small corner at the doorway and follow her into the bigger hallway where she now was.

When Polly turned her Sony Mavica digital camera on, she believes the music box sound the camera made might have coaxed the shadow man to come out of the doorway to see what it was. Or, maybe he wanted to see if Polly had left the area. When her camera was on and ready, Polly was about 110 feet away when she unwittingly photographed the shadow man in front of the yellow, hallway door. When the flash went off, she believes the ghost left. Having ghost investigated the penitentiary for five years, Polly Gear was not afraid during her encounter; the ghost did not feel threatening to her at all. In fact, “He was afraid of me. It took me five years to get this picture,” Polly explained.

SyFy Ghost Hunter's Moundsville Shadow Man Debunk
On the television show Ghost Hunters, TAPS took Polly’s shadow man photograph and attempted to debunk it (watch the above video). They recreated a shadow effect on the yellow door by having Jason of TAPS stand in front of it while his partner Grant shined an Infrared light from his video camera behind him. This created a shadow on the door which looked similar in size and shape to the shadow man image. Jason and Grant also reasoned that the shadow man’s left arm was up because it was really Polly’s shadow on the door with her arm holding a camera in the air. They felt that somebody must have been behind Polly with an IR camera light when she took her photograph. Knowing that Polly's story and photo did not match the conclusions set forth by SyFy's Ghost Hunters, we set out to investigate TAPS theory more closely to see if it were even plausible.

In SyFy Ghost Hunters' attempt to debunk the Moundsville Shadow Man photo, if you watch the SyFy video closely, you'll notice the big white pipe that is not mentioned. Watch closely at how Jason and Grant try to recreate the shadow at using Infrared lighting but with no camera flash. Their recreation and conclusions look nothing like the original photo; and most importantly, Polly's shadow many photograph was taken using a digital camera with flash - a huge difference. If ghost investigators are going to try and recreate a photo to debunk it, then certainly, the best way to do so is to be as accurate as possible by using similar equipment, camera settings, environment, etc. Honestly, the TAPS Ghost Hunters' debunk was ridiculous, dishonest to Polly Gear and not credible.

The Moundsville Shadow Man Photo Re-Examined
When we first looked at the uncropped shadow man picture, it became immediately apparent that Polly was not standing 10-40 feet away from the door as the Ghost Hunter's recreations suggested. Carefully, looking at the wall, we could easily count the ceramic tiles to determine almost exactly where Polly stood when she took her photograph. Using a tape measure, we determined the distance to be about 110 feet from the door. The SyFy Ghost Hunters were off in their re-creation of the photograph by quite a few feet! Following the idea that maybe Polly's shadow was somehow cast upon the yellow door, we attempted to produce a shadow of Polly from 110 feet away. From that distance, we could not contain her shadow on the door. In fact, her shadow was a faint gray that covered nearly the entire hallway wall and door. It was not even close to the same image that Polly had photographed.

Secondly, Polly Gear had long hair. Her shadow did not show the outline of a head with short hair. We had to place Polly less than ten feet away from the door with a light behind her to create a shadow that equaled the shadow man in height and darkness. When looking at Polly’s shadow, it was clear that she has long hair (unlike the shadow man), and her shadow projected very short legs (Polly's not near as tall as Jason).

Thirdly, the flash from Polly's camera would likely have washed out any shadowing effect caused by an IR or even a white light source shining toward her from behind. If you notice in Jason and Grant’s re-creation photo, it was dark and produced with an infrared light and video camera with no flash. They knew that if they had used a camera with flash, that Jason’s shadow image would have disappeared. Polly also told us that the only other people in the hallway that night who could have possibly cast some light to create any shadow, were at least another 100-200 feet behind her. They were only armed with small digital cameras. So, it was fairly easy to conclude that the shadow was not Polly's that she photographed on the door. (Also see: Moundsville Ghost Picture)

Finally, we also noticed something in the shadow man picture that SyFy's Ghost Hunters had also missed. In the shadow man photograph is a white pipe near the right wall before the doorway. The pipe extends from floor to ceiling and is not against the wall. If you look at Polly’s photograph closely, you will see that part of the shadow man was behind the pipe. This is explains why the arm seemed to be bent upward (or cut off). It was not that the shadow is from a person holding a camera, but that the shadow man’s arm was partially obscured from being behind the pipe in the hallway. This further proved that Polly’s shadow was not cast onto the door because the shadow was behind the pipe, and thus, at the door. If the ghost had been just Polly's shadow (or anyone else's), it would have appeared on the pipe (in front of it). We feel the only way to have created this detail would have been to create it in a photo editing program by computer; but, Polly's photo did not have the shadow figure added to it.

Conclusion
After listening to Polly Gear's story intently, I believe the shadow man photograph is as authentic as it gets. Her story, image and our experiments truly reveal that this ghost story and photograph is real. We could find no evidence of alteration to the photo, nor do we feel the photograph can be reproduced naturally. Polly Gear's Moundsville Shadow Man ghost picture is the real deal, and this is why her story was included in the book, Helping Ghosts: A Guide to Understanding Lost Spirits.

Photo Notes
In the lightened Moundsville Shadow Man ghost picture, it reveals the form of a man standing at the doorway and behind the white pipe. Notice how clear the colors of the door and back wall show up in the photograph. The shadow of the man is well defines. Also, the camera's flash can be seen bright against the near right wall, proving the flash fired when the photo was taken by Polly. If we pay attention to the blocks and the window up top, we can see just how far down the hallway Polly Gear stood while taking this photo. Notice how far away the pipe is from the wall in the photo of Polly Gear and how the shadow man is much taller than her.

An IR shadow created by SyFy's Ghost Hunters is laughable if we are to believe this is how the original shadow figure was produced and photographed. It is not as solid as the original shadow man nor is the pipe in the way like the original. Notice they did not use a flash camera to produce the shadow. Their use of a video camera with an Infrared light was unable to reproduce the yellow door and red wall found in Polly Gear's shadow man ghost picture. Also, light is shining on the door from the small hallway at right in the Ghost Hunters' video still.