Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Shadow Man of WV State Penitentiary

This evening I'll be attending a public investigation event at the West Virginia State Penitentiary at Moundsville!  One of the ghosts I hope to encounter is the infamous Shadow Man.

Shadow Man, by Polly Gear

This iconic photo was taken by Polly Gear, co-founder of the Mountaineer Ghosts Paranormal Investigators.  It was taken around 1:30 am on May 7th, 2004, just a few hours after a severe thunderstorm rolled through the area.

The area you are seeing in the photo is the doorway to the cafeteria.  Polly was in the North Hallway walking south towards the lobby, when she heard a noise behind her, coming from the area of the doorway that leads to the cafeteria.  As she went to investigate the sound, she turned on her light and saw the shadowy figure of a man, who looked at her before darting back behind the door frame.  At the point that she saw the figure, she estimated she was about 10 feet away from him.  She began to back away from him and dropped her light in order to ready her camera for a picture.  At an estimated 110 feet from the figure, she managed to snap the famous photograph that has caused quite the stir in the paranormal world.

When TAPS filmed an episode at the prison for their Ghost Hunters television show, many believed they had solved the mystery. In episode 303, which aired on October 25, 2006, Jason and Grant attempted to debunk the Shadow Man photo. Since they were able to recreate a similar phenomenon employing the IR shadow theory, it couldn't have been a real ghost, right?

Well...that theory, while sounding good, doesn't account for the details provided by Polly about the conditions under which the photograph was obtained.  According to the awesome information provided by the Sparks Spirit Hunters, "an IR shadow occurs when there is an Infrared light source behind the investigator who is taking a photograph or video in the dark. The IR light is 'invisible' to the naked eye, so often the investigator is unaware that it is even shining on him or her. The investigator then snaps a picture with a camera that has the ability to capture this 'invisible' IR light.  The result is a shadow shaped like the investigator where they have blocked out the IR light.  It looks just like a Shadow Person!"

Graphic by Sparks Spirit Hunters

While it seems like the IR shadow is a very plausible explanation--and is a concept that ALL investigators need to be aware of, especially when investigating large, open areas-- as I said earlier, it just doesn't mesh with the circumstances.  We don't know if there was an IR source behind Polly when she took the photo, but there may have been since this was presumably an investigation.  However, Polly saw the shadow with her own eyes...and she saw the figure dart behind a door, independent of her own movements!  If this were an IR shadow, technically she shouldn't have been able to see it, and it certainly wouldn't have moved on its own.  Therefore, if we take this information as being truthful and accurate, that still leaves this photograph as unsolved.

But who is the Shadow Man?  I've heard theories ranging from it being the spirit of a former prisoner, possibly the infamous RD Wall who was murdered in the 1970s, to it being the spirit of a former guard who is still wandering the halls, keeping the prison in check.  Whoever it may be, I hope to meet him tonight!

Sources:
Interview with Polly Gear

IR Shadow information from Sparks Spirit Hunters

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