Aug 31 2013

Seeing the Unseen

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Have you ever not seen something because you just weren’t looking closely enough?

What about here? Do you see anything out-of-the-ordinary in the photo below, taken at a historical museum and genealogical society in Western Pennsylvania?

During a recent trip home to my native Pennsylvania, my uncle took me (and his wife, as well as my cousin) on a tour of the local historical museum at which he volunteers. Hint: check out the fourth full window partition from the left. Click to enlarge.

When I combed through the photos I’d downloaded, I buzzed right past this image. (In honesty, this room didn’t really move me as the others had. I haphazardly took the photo “just because”). But something caught my eye as I reviewed the freshly downloaded images. Something looked out of place in this oblong room. So I zoomed in:

Do you see what I see? Click to enlarge. I was actually the only one in the room, and I’d used no flash. I also find it peculiar how the outside is seemingly lit-up, yet it was 9 p.m. and pitch black.

I truly didn’t expect to see anything – or anyone – staring back at me when I zoomed in, but when I saw the eyes, the nose, the full lips … the hair stood up on both arms and my eyes began this bizarre, unstoppable watering. It wasn’t crying, really. It was … well, unexplainable. I felt I had locked eyes with a fierce, sad soul.

And despite forewarned tales of a “woman in a white dress” haunting the museum – a house built in 1842 – it wasn’t her figure that I saw. I clearly saw the face of an Indian warrior staring back.

What do you see in the photo? If you see nothing, then you’re like my husband – a big ol’ debunker, sure there is some logical explanation for the image – the biggest Doubting Thomas of them all when it comes to things supernatural.

But would your mind change if I told you that once I returned to Arizona, downloaded the photos and sent them to my uncle, he shared with me the fact that a ghost-hunting group had once visited and claimed that a Delaware Native American Indian, Tewea, was “discovered there?” (Relax your eyes, tilt your head slightly to the right, and start at the very top of the “mass” in the window. You’ll see two eyes in the first rung of the blinds, a nose in the next rung, and full lips and a chin in the next. Do you also see the metal staff to the left? The sash across the chest?)

Maybe none of this moves you, still. Maybe, again, you see nothing. But when my cousin shared a drawing of this famous Indian (a seven-foot-tall man), my goose pimples returned with a vengeance.

Is the sash in my photo really part of this Indian dress? Is Tewea’s height accurate for peering in this window? (The museum has an entire “Indian room” of artifacts and history, by the way. And Tewea’s death was – obviously – tragic.) Click to enlarge.

Is this a restless spirit? Simply a photographic anomaly? Or do I want to “believe” so badly that I’m seeing what I want to see?

I don’t know. You be the judge.

For Writers, Readers: Do you think writers are more open to the possibilities of the unknown, unexplained, the unseen, the supernatural? Is it because we’re creative? Is it because we want to believe? Why might we be more open than others? As readers, what is it about the unexplained that is so enticing? Even if you aren’t a fan of supernatural fiction, are you drawn to the possibility of things unimagined? What do you think about the above museum-house photos? Mere coincidence? Or something more?

Stay tuned for my next “What I Saw (in Pennsylvania)” installment regarding the fascinating way I discovered my long-lost uncle and cousin – and helped fill in a missing branch of the family tree.


29 Responses to “Seeing the Unseen”

  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    I love it, Melissa! My husband sounds more like yours, but I am always intrigued by anything that depicts that there is more to this life than what meets the eye.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    It’s a guy thing, I suppose. Ha ha. SO – did you see what I saw, or not? Curious!

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  • avatar Julia Munroe Martin Says:

    I definitely think writers are more curious and open to all kinds of things… supernatural, natural, unnatural…. and otherwise. As for the photo, I definitely see something, too. Don’t you wish you could turn back the clock so you could be in that room and look out that window?!?!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Boy do I EVER wish I could take a peek again. My cousin is planning to go back at the same time of night and take additional photos. My Uncle says he’ll investigate, too.

    I agree that the curiosity of writers leaves us more open to possibility – about all kinds of things. Living any other way, to me, would feel a bit boring. Ha ha.

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  • avatar Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Melissa – I saw him well before your detailed description. And then when I “clicked to enlarge” I was basically nose-to-nose with an Indian warrior.

    I particularly like that you didn’t find out about Tewea until after the fact. To my way of thinking, that eliminates “wishful thinking” on your part. Please keep us posted on any additional information your cousin and uncle discover.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Oh, yay. You DID see him (I was trying to give folks a chance to see him on their own before explaining how they might go about looking for him).

    Per my cousin, Melissa S. in comments below, she did a little more research. Spooky!

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  • avatar Melissa S. Says:

    Melissa, I drove past the museum several times since we visited last Sunday trying to make sense of this pic. There are no shrubs or trees outside of the window or any reasons why this shape should logically appear. My husband (debunker # 2) is laughing at me for being so obsessed with this, but sheesh! This is creepy!!!!! As soon as I can, I’ll get up to the museum at night and snap another picture in the same room in the same spot. If Tewea appears, I’ll probably faint! :))

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    Melissa Reply:

    OK – so now I’m doubly impressed (and spooked).No shrubs or trees at all? Wow? I thought, for sure, that the “sash” might be a tree. I can’t wait to see what you uncover on a subsequent visit!

    Let our husbands laugh, and let us faint! The unexplained makes for some exciting discussion 😉

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  • avatar Laurie Buchanan Says:

    Melissa S. – Way to go, please keep us posted. And my hat’s off to you for being willing to have another go at it from the same room in the near future.

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    Melissa S. Reply:

    Hi Laurie. I’ll definitely keep you posted! Am I crazy for going back at night for another look? Yes, yes I am. 🙂

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  • avatar Jessica McCann (@JMcCannWriter) Says:

    Well, I didn’t see it at first, but definitely did in the close up. And like Laurie, I think it’s validation that you saw the image of the Indian chief before you learned of him. It would have been easier to chalk it up to pure imagination had you seen the “woman in the white dress.” I had genuine goosebumps seeing the images.

    I do think writers tend to be more open-minded about things unseen, more open to possibilities of there being more to life than what is on the surface. We’re so prone to ask, “what if?” It’s a chicken vs. egg question, I think, as to why we’re that way. Does our curiosity feed our imagination? Or does it go the other way? I don’t know. But I do know that it’s experiences like this one that fuel compelling fiction, and I can’t wait to see how it fires up your novel in progress.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Trust me, I was looking for the woman in the white dress!

    Such a great observation you pose about “chicken and egg.” And you KNOW that the wheels have already begun spinning regarding the novel in progress (I’ve come up with some ideas already, of how to incorporate this fascinating character).

    When you get a chance, take a look at Linda’s comment below and what SHE saw…

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  • avatar Cynthia Robertson Says:

    I DO see him. Is it just your suggestion? I don’t think so, because I saw the staff and eyes before you mentioned them.
    Why do you think these visits turn up so often in photos, when we can’t see them when we are right there? What’s that all about, hmm?

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    Melissa Reply:

    I was hoping that my “how to find the image” instruction was far enough below the photos to allow readers to see or not see on their own. So glad you saw it. I’m not surprised that writers pick up on it, frankly.

    Why do these things show up on cameras? My two cents: they want to be seen. They want their stories told. And that’s precisely what I plan to do!

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  • avatar Linda Anselmi Says:

    Eerie to say the least! On the first picture I spotted a giant furry white mask with compelling eyes and horns – white buffalo is what immediately pop into my head.

    When I look at the enlarged pic I actually see two figures – a tall shadowy figure (though I can see the outline of facial features) and a much shorter “Buffalo” masked man with a tall staff in front.

    How’s that for imagination?

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    Melissa Reply:

    Goosebumps all over again, Linda! It’s not your imagination; my cousin pointed out the horned figure as well (which I saw after her observation).

    And a bit of startling history just occurred to me: this Indian Chief and his family met their demise as their cabin was set fire, which caused gunpowder to explode. Upon exiting, Tewea, his squaw and his son were shot. I’ll have to see if I can find out his son’s age… and if this tribe wore horned masks…

    So sad, and so very spooky.

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    Jessica McCann (@JMcCannWriter) Reply:

    OK, OK, now I’m starting to freak out a little. I can see the smaller figure standing in front of the tall chief, as well. Clear. As. Day. Can’t wait to learn more about your research of the chief and his family.

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  • avatar roxanne garcia Says:

    I see it! I see it! How cool. although I didn’t really see it clearly until I followed your advice about tipping my head back and such. so does that mean the power of suggestion is workig on me? whatever it is, this is so cool and spooky!!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Sometimes I also think monitors/monitor size, and the angle at which you see something makes it more obscure or more easily seen. It’s all a matter of perspective, as they say, but the crazy thing when I first downloaded the photo? It just popped RIGHT out at me on the very first glance.

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  • avatar Annie Neugebauer Says:

    I don’t think writers are more open, actually. I think people in general are, and writers are no different. It’s a huge part of human nature to want to believe in more than we know. That being said, I’m with your husband. I’d put my money on a lighting anomaly or some other explainable phenomenon. (For the record, I didn’t see an Indian. I saw a dinosaur with a sort of pointy beak.) I still think it’s cool fuel for potential fiction, though!

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    Melissa Reply:

    You never cease to amaze, Miss Annie. I thought FOR SURE, you would be one who saw a ghost, given your like of the spooky. But I’m laughing because you and my husband are on THE same wavelength. HE saw a dinosaur, too.

    So far, no reasonable explanation on lighting, etc. I can’t wait to see what my cousin finds when she goes back to take photos. She did note that there are zero trees/shrubs, and I find it eerie that the driveway outside is completely blocked out by ‘whatever it is.’ Maybe I’ve watched too many Ghost Hunters and Paranormal State episodes ;-).

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  • avatar Lura Slowinski Says:

    I have to agree with Annie, which is funny because I love a good ghost story. But though I sort of see the Indian’s face, I don’t really believe it’s a ghost. Maybe it’s the four years I spent in Gettysburg, PA, which has a thriving (and rather annoying) ghost tourism industry, but I’m very skeptical of all things supernatural. I also don’t think writers in general are more open to the unexplained — not even horror or fantasy writers.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Funny… I’ve always assumed – if I went to Gettysburg (or any other ‘notably’ haunted location) – that I would probably NOT see or experience anything simply because I wanted to. What make the ‘possibility’ of ghosts so fascinating is when skeptics have an experience that changes their minds.

    I imagine the ‘ghost industry’ IS probably pretty annoying, if you live there.

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  • avatar Hallie Sawyer (@Hallie_Sawyer) Says:

    Okay, I see something but I can’t make out the details. I DO see the staff and the sash, though. I’m all about ghost stories and a huge fan of Ghost Adventurers show on the Travel Channel. Zac is a bit “off” but love Aaron. He’s a hoot!

    I love the possibility that this was a ghost caught on camera and whether or not it is, why not believe? I love that you did a little digging and found out about Tewea. I’m such a fan of Native American history so this stuff totally makes me geek out.

    I interpret your question posed to writers/readers like this. Writers may be be a bit willing to believe what’s not easily seen because often we are drumming up things that aren’t really there. As a reader, I like the mystery that surrounds life because it gives so much more possibility beyond what we see.

    If you ever want to start a ghost-hunting team, I’m your gal! 😉

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    Melissa Reply:

    Ha! Can you imagine us a ghost-hunting team? I haven’t watched Ghost Adventurers (and now that we’re Directv ex customers, it looks like I won’t). Sigh. Paranormal State has been a past fav, as well as Ghost Hunters.

    I agree with you: writers are always pushing the envelope of the make-believe, so it makes sense to me, that we might be a little more open to the abstract.

    I’ll let you know if Tewea shows up in my cousin’s follow-up shots.

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    Melissa S Reply:

    I’d like to get back into the house on September 8 which marks the death of Tewea that same day (military attack).

    I also love Ghost Adventurers and another show called Paranormal State. Although these shows are somewhat corny and scripted, with people letting their imaginations run away in the dark, I understand how people just want answers to what they cannot explain.

    I have to comment that this not a tourist town; no one conducts ghost tours, and no one that I know has ever had a “paranormal experience”, although I’m sure that if I ask enough people, someone will humor me with a story or two.

    As we were leaving the museum that night, after talking about the volunteer seeing the “lady in white” I said to Melissa, “I don’t believe in that stuff”… but given the fact that the house sits on ground that was once a Native American village, with the site of Tewea’s longhouse where he resided just three blocks away, perhaps my mind has been opened to more fully embrace the possibilities of the unexplained.

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    OK – so now I’m even more intrigued. I did NOT know that the historical museum sits on a once-Native American village — or that Tewea’s longhouse was only three blocks away. I got all goosebumpy again!

    I can’t wait to see your photos. Will you take daylight ones out the window, too? Just to see if there is “anything” out there to account for the image?

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  • avatar Natalia Sylvester Says:

    Oooh, I love this! And I do think creative people in general are prone to seeing the unseen, only because we have to look beyond appearances constantly to see what’s really there. Metaphors and mysteries are everywhere! That’s part of the fun.

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  • avatar Jackie Cangro Says:

    Wow Melissa, that is absolutely uncanny. While I’ve never had that kind of experience myself, I don’t discount them. The older I get the more I realize that there are plenty of things in this world that I can’t explain, yet they exist. Just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t possible. 🙂

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