Here’s something spooky and fun to kick off your day: A ghost girl has allegedly been spotted on Google Maps. I’ll be upfront about the fact that I am very, very skeptical the image currently being passed around actually shows a ghost; indeed, I’m not even totally sure the image actually came from Google Maps at all. Either way, though, “a ghost girl has allegedly been spotted on Google Maps” is one of the most entertaining sentences I’ve ever had the pleasure of typing, so I’ll allow it. Also, as this story would have it, the ghost is literally in the machine — and I kind of love it.
According to UK tabloid the Daily Star, from whence the story appears to originate, the image was allegedly captured in a Google Maps view of Delicias, a city known primarily as an agricultural and manufacturing center located in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. (The Daily Star doesn’t note that the “ghost” seems to have appeared specifically in a Street View shot of the city, but it’s probably safe to assume that that’s the case.) The image depicts a red car positioned on what looks like a narrow street or alley. Curiously, a New York Yankees logo is visible in the car’s rear windshield; my guess is it’s either a decal pasted to the window, or just a Yankees hat or something positioned on the back of the car’s seats.
And, of course, there’s an alleged “ghost," too. What looks like the spectral head of a young girl is positioned above the car’s left-hand side; I’m not sure whether the head is attached to an equally spectral body standing in front of the car, or whether the head is disembodied and simply hovering above the car, but either way, it seems transparent and out of place. Here’s what it looks like:
Now, it's worth noting that — as entertaining as it is — there are also a lot of issues with this story. The Daily Star makes no mention of who first spotted the “ghost,” or even where specifically on Google Maps it was allegedly found — which means that, unless you’ve got the time and the inclination to spend hours wandering around Delicias via Street View until you stumble upon the alleged location by chance, it’s going to be rather difficult to confirm that the image came from Google Maps in the first place. I’ve also been unable to find any versions of the image that aren’t the one displayed in the Star — the one with the big, red arrow pointing to the spot in the larger image where the alleged “ghost” is located and an enlarged version of that spot positioned on the left. That's... suspicious to me.
Plus, let’s not forget that not only are there are myriad ways to fake a ghost photograph — “spirit photography,” after all, has a long history dating back to the mid-1800s, when amateur photographer William Mumler discovered that the technique of double exposure could be used to create ghostly presences in seemingly ordinary photographs — but also that these days, the tools by which such a photograph could be faked are more accessible than ever. (That’s one of the main takeaways from Dear David, after all. Speaking of, has anyone heard from Adam Ellis recently?) There’s Photoshop, sure — but, as Express points out, you don’t even need fancy software to manipulate an image to look like there’s a ghost hidden in it: There are tons of apps available for cheap or even free that will let you pop a “spirit” into any image you like with just a few taps. All you have to do is search your device’s app store for something like “ghost photo editor” and watch the results roll in:
All of this suggests to me that the whole thing is… well, take this infamous GIF:
And substitute “hoax” for “aliens,” and that tells you pretty much everything you need to know. Minus, y’know, the whole conspiracy theorist bent.
This is not, of course, the first time a “ghost” or other supposedly paranormal entity or object has allegedly been found on Google Maps. Just a month ago, for example, a spooky face appeared in the satellite imagery of Bainbridge Island off the coast of Seattle; in 2016, a man claimed he had spotted a ghost in the window of the Stuart Hotel in Liverpool via Street View; in 2015, mysterious handprints suddenly became visible in the windows of the W.H. Dorrance House in Camden, New York, also in Street View; and at one point in 2016, people became convinced that the Street View representation of a particular street in Santa Catarina, Brazil was actually a portal to hell.
Most of these odd occurrences can be chalked up to perfectly rational causes: The face on Bainbridge Island was likely an instance of pareidolia; the ghosts spotted in windows could just have been, y’know, actual people; and the “portal to hell” was almost certainly a glitch or a sequence of images captured by the Street View car that just didn’t mesh terribly well together.
Indeed, I would argue that the non-paranormal things that have occasionally popped up on Google Maps are even weirder than these supposedly ghostly events. Dumpster of mannequins? Pigeon people? A random guy in a gas mask? Those are far scarier to me than a possible GoogleMaps “ghost” because they’re actually, concretely real.
The truth really is stranger than fiction — most of the time, at least.