Sunday, January 16, 2011

Freddy Jackson's Last Photo

In early 1919, the RAF squadron based outside of Cranwell was slated to be disbanded.  To mark the occasion, the group of over 200 men and women who had survived the war and served aboard the HMS Daedalus, posed in uniform outside on a runway at the base.  It was a somber occasion, as two days earlier, one of their own had passed away.  Freddy Jackson, a flight mechanic, had accidentally walked into the propeller of a plane about to take off and was killed instantly.  His funeral was held the day the photo was taken.

The photo in question was an official RAF photo.  When developed, a copy was posted to the squadron's bulletin board with a sign-up sheet for squadron members to order their own copy.  Apparently, members did see the face, and immediately recognized it as their fallen comrade.

However, it wasn't until 1975 that the photo gained any popularity.  Sir Robert Victor Goddard, a retired Air Marshall with an interest in the paranormal who was present when the photo was taken, published the photo, which clearly shows a man standing behind another.  This person is out of place, not wearing a hat like anyone else in the photo, and identified by many members of the squadron as being Freddy Jackson.  Those who knew Jackson believe that he may or may not have been aware that he was dead, but either way, felt the need to be included in the photograph!

This is one of those photos that really does seem too good to be true and is passed around the net over and over again, being touted as a great example of an authentic ghost photograph.  In fact, even some more skeptical members of the paranormal community relent and admit that this very well could be a genuine example of paranormal photography.

But is it REALLY?

Inspired by an assignment in my online Paranormal Photography class, I decided to take a closer look at this photo and do some research that for whatever reason, I had failed to include when I initially posted this blog.    Obviously, the first step was to find out a little more about Freddy Jackson himself.  Well, this was a FAIL.

I did find an individual named "Morgan" on the Ghost-Mysteries forum claiming to have found historical evidence that there WAS a man named Freddy Jackson who was killed by walking into the propeller of a Sopwith Camel, just several days before his transport maintenance company disbanded in 1918---not 1919.    This information was obtained by meticulous research and calls placed to various agencies, with help from a "Mary" at the Cranwell RAF archives.  Being a meticulous researcher myself, I wanted some additional verification in the form of primary documentation...not just someone's word on a message board.

Unfortunately, its difficult to get that primary documentation from another continent from nearly 100 years ago without putting forth a lot of time and money...and not even being guaranteed results.  So, I did the next best thing; I consulted the Find-a-Grave website!  What I found was that there were close to a dozen men with the last name Jackson that died in 1918-19 who possibly could have been our Freddy...but weren't.  I found Fredericks, and Freds, and even a host of Alfreds.  I REALLY thought I had a hit with 2nd Lt. Charles Frederick Stephen Jackson of the 207th Training Depot Station, RAF.  He was the only military personnel I found who was in the Royal Air Force, but unfortunately, although Cranwell did later become a training depot, Charles was never stationed there....and clearly has written on his tombstone that he died in a flying accident.

2nd Lt. C.F.S. Jackson's Grave, by Geoffrey Gillon

I would like to clarify that just because I couldn't find a strong documentation on this individual doesn't mean he didn't exist, especially if we can take the word of Morgan.  And with that, I moved onto the next face of research...why was this photo not in public scrutiny until 1975?  I can't answer that with any certainty, but a short background on the man behind bringing it to the public eye, Robert Victor Goddard, is in order.

The very same "paranormal interest" that caused him to share this photo might also work against his credibility to some people.  That is because Sir Robert Victor Goddard is somewhat of a controversial figure himself after claiming that he flew "through time," in 1935.  Sir Goddard's time traveling exploits have been chronicled and critiqued at length already, and I suggest this article by the BS Historian, which discusses how certain elements of Goddard's story could not be corroborated...and offers up a rational explanation as to what happened to him.

Again, playing Devil's Advocate here...even if we can push aside the "back-story" of this photograph and how it came to be displayed to the public, we are still left with a photograph that does appear to contain the ghostly image of a man peeking out from behind another.  The fact that the face is so out of place, is not wearing a hat like all the others, and has sort of a wispy, ethereal quality to it, does merit some analysis.  Unfortunately, I can't really give you that at this point, lol.

The actual image is EXTREMELY hard to see in the "original" photo, and only becomes really apparent with the circular insert.  It does appear, however, that there is not enough space behind the living RAF personnel to accommodate another living human, and that a photographer would have noticed if someone who was supposed to be in the shot was not positioned clearly.

The biggest problem with this photo's authenticity is the same issue that comes up with most of these classic, historic ghost photos...and that's the fact that since everyone associated with the photo is deceased, no one can be interviewed and the negative is generally lost to history.

So as of this date (July 2013) I'm going to classify this photo as unknown.  I'd really LIKE for it to be paranormal, but obviously, I have my reservations....hopefully the wonderful knowledge that I hope to gleam from this paranormal photography class will give me additional insights into analyzing this intriguing photograph!

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