Photo from the Underworld


Pareidolia or Paranormal Series: Photo from the Underworld

Photo from the Underworld

1. SPI meeting the informant; 2. A mysterious photo captured on their cell phone; 3. SPI enlarged the photo. 4. Checking out

Decoding the images out from the photo

A Strange Photo Found in Camera Phone

On June 15, 2007, 9:40:00pm, SPI received an email at, about a very strange phenomenon. Ms Lee Leng who is a Malaysian working in Singapore, told SPI that they found a mysterious photo from his brother’s camera phone which her whole family believes it is paranormal. This is where the puzzling photo came about which runs short of logical explanation.

During Qing Ming festival on October 2, 2006, Lee Leng’s family went to do tomb sweeping as many Chinese families do as a tradition. The family had a day of joy in a local Chinese cemetery that is situated in one of the many hills in Negeri Ssembilan. It is located on the western coast of Peninsular Malaysia, just south of Kuala Lumpur and is bordered in the north by Selangor, in the east by Pahang and in the south by Malacca and Johor.

It was a sunny day, everybody in the family was happy in mood, probably because it was a day of family union back in their home town. After paying respect to the ancestor tomb, they trekked around the hill passing by other Chinese tombs and taking photos along the way. They posed joyfully for photoshots with the backdrop of the scenic hill and tombs around. Lee Leng’s younger brother, William photographed no less than a dozen photos using his old Nokia 6230 cell phone.

When they reached home after the cemetery visit, at night they downloaded the photos from the phone to their computer. Out of a great shock, they discovered an anomaleous photo out a normal sequence of shots, like a thumb sticking out in pain.

All the photos look normal but this one. Described by Lee Leng, “It was a bright day light. All photos turned out as they supposed to be showing our cheerful faces at the cemetery hill. But this one in particular was dark and you can vaguely see a number of blurry objects. The scariest thing is, nobody knows how this photo got into the camera as nobody remembers taking this shot at all.”

A cold chill started to descend down on everybody’s spine. Remembering the fun they just had in the morning hopping around from tomb to tomb to snap photos in a cemetery, they admittedly acknowledged that their careless actions might have offended the ghosts in the graves. In the Chinese traditional concept, walking vuglarly around the tombs with laughters and jokes, is a form of disrespect to the dead. The consequence is to invite ill lucks. On a brighter side, however, supposing that they were merely taking photos in delight, it may not be an offense but a way to arouse the attention from the ‘other’ side; and therefore some message from the other side is connected to them via some paranormal means.

1. Noted down the details; 2. A girl face; 3. Twin faces 4. Two children faces

1. Devil’s face; 2. A solider wearing a cap; 3. cipher codes; 4. a number 1944

They wish to believe the latter. As they carefully inspect the photo, they were simply amazed by what they could see. All these strange items which they can identify from the blurry photo can be interpreted by something meaningful. The strange things in the photo somehow, perhaps by coincidents, resemble some visions from the underworld. They include but not limited to female ghost, Chinese tombs, faces with talisman pasted on, Japanese solider, etc. (More details in the following section).

Being able to recongnise some of the visions, their belief is strenghtened that this picture is rather a gift than punishment, from the other side. It was as though some unknown force was trying to tell them somethings through this picture. The sender may be their family ancestor as they have just tidy up their grandparents grave who wanted to convey them a message. Or they have just by chance picked up a mystical signal from the supernatural realm.

At any rate, Lee Leng and her family is hoping to find out the truth about this photo. They strongly believe that the photo has a rich collection of secret messages, significant but subtle, ready to be decoded by the right people at the right timings one day. They contacted SPI as well as consulted many spiritual mediums who gave inconsistent opinions however.

Mysterious Images in the Photo

By a simple visual check over the photo, one can easily spot out a handful of images. The blurry blobs do not seem to take shapes of random but something scary. You can click on the following pictures, blow them up and examine them yourself. May be you can discover some new images.

A devil’s face, with a square face and bulged eyes

Two children faces, with one got a paper talisman pasted on the forehead

Chinese tombs

A rabbit with tall ears and human faces

A man’s face slightly titled up

Zombie with a big mouth

Two beheaded human heads put side by side

An ox head, after the photo has been filtered in embrossed mode

The edges of the photo now are more clear. They contain some characters that look like Egyptian hieroglyphs

Click above to enlarge. You can barely see some digits 1, 2, 4, 8, etc

A female portait with shoulder length hairs; the photo is rotated 90 degree clockwise

It can also be seen as a close up portrait of a girl at the same spot

Ghost with long hairs covering half the face

A Japanese solider wearing a cap

A woman face with a subtle smile

A monster that looks like Master Yoda in Star Wars?

A cresent-moon-faced man with a sharp chin, or a pepper face

A miserable face suffering in pain

SPI investigated for logical answers

William recalled that he did not take this shot. He claimed that the phone has been in perfect working order all the while. No malfunction of any kind ever happened to the phone. All the photos taken look fine except this one. They were lost of explanation of how on earth this photo got into his camera phone. So this phenonemon is something that violates logical answers. Is that really so?

Believers would just interpret that this photo is an imprint from the other side of the world. They may call it a photo of the underworld, probably because of the related cemetery visit during Qing Ming festival – an event associating with the dead. Before it can be confirmed as paranormal, SPI scrutinized through every possibility logically.

First of all, we looked into the camera phone, model Nokia 6230. This particular model is acclaimed to be simple-to-use, functional and generally reliable as feedbacked by many users. It came with a VGA camera with only 0.3 MegaPixel that is considered to be ultra-low resolution by today’s standard.

From a rational perspective, William could have unknowingly taken the photo in question due to some special conditions. What are the ‘special’ conditions? The phone was said to be not faulty by William, the owner of the phone. However, SPI found that there exist some reported bugs and undesirable features in some batches of Nokia 6230 phones. These bugs may be intermittent problems instead of serious malfunction, which means the user may not be aware of them. Here are some known bugs:

• Sometimes for no reason an image or video clip is copied [1].

• On newer firmware version of the 6230i the camera is unable to process images that are bigger than 786kb. This can be experienced when taking pictures at top quality setting in 1280×1024 mode of scenes with lots of fine details, like the leaves on a tree. The image processor in the camera module does not have enough memory to create the compressed JPEG file from the image sensor data [1].

• The 3 second shutter lag will annoy some people looking for a quick shooting camera phone [2].

• The inefficient design of having the arrow-controller and press-button in one. The real problem surfaces when trying to use it to actually select the item you’ve carefully positioned the selector over. Because of the sensitivity of the button, your firm ’press’ is often read as ’left, up, left, press’ or other equally insane combinations of button presses. The clumsy navigation of the button brings to following point of criticism [2].

• The Camera. Because of the aforementioned overly sensitive ‘Button’, many pictures end up blurry. It is because you have to press the button so firmly that the entire camera moves a little, and with the low shuttertime of the camera this results in horrid pictures. Some user got 15 decent shots, and have taken about 200 [2].

• The metal component below the camera is tarnished with unknown reason (it is being debated on what the cause is) [3]


So wouldn’t any of the technical problems mentioned above contribute to the manifestation of the strange photo? As said it may not be a technical fault, sometimes it may be easier than we thought to have taken a defected photo. Lets just speculate one scenario that might have happened during the day William was taking photos around the cemetery.

On that day where it was hot and sweaty, the group was walking over an uneven ground, wiggling their ways through the Chinese tombs in a hill. William may not have paid full attention, he might have tried to shoot a photo but unsucessful. Quite a number of possibilities: his hand shook, he was standing on an unstable ground, or simply moving off the camera too fast soon after he pressed the button.

It was known that the camera has 3 second lag; anybody who used a slow camera before would know that it required a steady hand and some patience in shooting the photo. William may not be aware about the unsuccessful shot taken, unknowingly, when he was navigating among the tombs on a hill in action. He may not have well concentrated in taking every photo which is possible.

Just for another speculation, he may have accidentally activated the self-timer button on the phone, or pressed directly the photo button by accident; during the lag time he put back his camera phone into his pocket or waist pouch that he carried on that day. The menu button of the phone belonged to the first generation of ‘joy stick’ type implemented in mobile phone; its motion was known to be clumsy. So the camera fired inside an enclosed pocket or bag. That would probably created the effect as appeared on that photo – a dark background with blobs of blurry random lights.

In order to verify this speculation, SPI tried to recreate the effect by using a relatively low resolution camera-phone (1.3M pixels), with a not-so-high grade of quality camera lens. The camera shot at the direction of a light source, through a plastic bag. You can roughly see that a similar blurry image can be artificially made. The round blobs could be due to some water droplets on the surface of the camera lens. A sweaty hand is all it needs.

Does it look ghostly enough? Tell you that is man made, you can DIY

The other possibility could rest on the scratches on the camera phone, if the ghost photo were not resulted due to hardware malfunction nor careless photo-shoot. As you can see in the following photos, the camera was heavily used, the phone body is full of tear and wear till the paint finish faded off.

1. We checked that the phone has an auto-lock function and it is turned on; 2 – 3. There is no shortcut key to take photo;
4. Look closely, the lens cover is badly full of scratches

SPI had a meet-up with Lee Leng and William in the afternoon of 07/07/2007, to gather more details hoping for a breakthrough in solving the mystery. We had a long talk and close look together at the photo. In terms of information, we reached a bottleneck as nobody can exactly verify what happened on that day when the photo was taken. Speculations only remain as they are. A hot day, sweaty palm, a tough cemetery trek and possibly over-heated on the camera equipment. Likely but not absolute, these factors lead to an inproper shot of the photo.

1. William and Lee Leng; 2. William showing us his phone; 3 & 4. Lee Leng who is more out-spoken narrated the happening in details

1. Only in much later, we found a graffiti on the wall by chance we sat near; 2. What do these symbols mean?
3. We tried to apply different filters on the photos; 4. Recorded down the observations made by Lee Leng and her family.

1 & 4. We noticed another amazing phenomenon of Pareidolia;
2. When the photo is hoisted up at certain angle, it reveals a face of a beard man,
it looks like a face of a Terracotta warrior from Qin Dynasty.
It should be light reflection of Lee Leng’s face but it shows very differently
3. Now tilt the photo into another angle, the light reflection changes to another look. What do see?
A Micky Mouse or a Chipmuack ? That depends on how you look at it

A mystery can always be explained by two sides, that depends on which perspective you want to take – of a supernatural belief or skeptism. So far we concluded that is a very classical case of Pareidolia . With different light reflections and angles of viewing the blury images in the photo, you can interpret them into anything that you way by your imagination. The other mystery is the source of the photo, where did it come from. We have been keeping up with certain skeptism as it is technically possible for a mis-shot, until the same evening when we opened up a local newspaper.

We could not believe our eyes. The first prize of lottery drawn out to be 4941, for the game on Saturday 07/07/2007 that is the very day we met the informant. Still vividly in our memories, Lee Leng told us in the afternoon (before we got to know or think of lottery number), that she was able to see a 4 digit number 1944 from the photo. Naturally we related the number to the year 1944 of WW2, since there was an image of a Japanese solider wearing a cap in the photo. We had been discussing whether the photo was revealing a battle scene with people who were killed during the war time. Therefore the ghosts showed their faces, and their tombs etc. Little we know that on a special 07/07/07 (tripple 7), 1944 was hinted but nobody thought of buying a lottery ticket (4D) in combination!

1. We checked that the phone has an auto-lock function and it is turned on; 2 – 3. There is no shortcut key to take photo;

For a moment, this incident made us to think all over again, considering the paranormal elements in the photo. It was shown to a number of spiritual masters but so far no perfect explanation was offered. Perhpas it was just a coincidence of the 4D first prize and the number in the photo. May be it has more from the mystical side which we just have not decipher yet.

Just as a side note. By the time this report is published, another special date 09/09/2009 (Triple 9) is approaching. Can any reader ‘see’ through from the photo, and be lucky enough to win a first prize? Or you may be the destined one who can know and tell the ultimate ‘truth’ behind the photo. You can email to, should you wish to obtain a copy of the mysterious photo for analysis.

Some months later, we lately met Lee Leng again. She shared with us on her views regarding the whole matter. Below is an extract of what she said, though in Chinese.

For those who can’t read Chinese, here is roughly the translated message. Lately there is another case happened to Lee Leng’s younger sister. She was said to be possessed by evil spirits, personality has changed 180 degrees:

“This is a kind of unexplainable happenings. Before and after the possession she was like two different persons. After this experience, we should be more caring for people who are around us. A master used to say that, ‘paranormal’ things will find you, disturb your mind when you are fragile. So we got to be calm in whatever things we handle. Taking a rest is to prepare ourselves ready for a long journey ahead.

I want to know about that mysterious photo. What responses do we have? Do other people believe? I still feel it is incredible. Just like what you said, it looks like things that come from the other dimension. I have shown this photo to a friend who has got The Third Eye (second sight). He understands the phone instantly at the first glance. Other ordinary people just can’t understand no matter how many times they look at it.

The images in the photo that he can see are the same as those I could have seen. He also has pointed out some more to me from the photo. He also said no matter day or night, ghosts always exist. But ghosts are more scared of we human than we are afraid of them

The mystery, one day will be fully solved.”

Hopefully, one day, the mystery will be all solved….


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