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1959: The Cooper Family Ghost Photo

The picture started to be shared around on the internet in 2009 -- its earliest appearance known was at Ligotti.net, on November 14 -- and no one included any details... its origins were completely unexplained. That didn't stop people from posting it. After all, it is very strange.

The PhotoA falling body...? [Larger version here]

In fact, the picture was shared and posted again and again until 2013, when the first glimpses of a story started to appear. The earliest I've tracked this story is to a website called AcidCow on October 15, 2013, where the picture was posted with the following text:

"As the Cooper's move into their new home in Texas, they take a photograph of the family sitting together, but as the photo is taken, a body falls from the ceiling. The OP said he wasn't sure if it was real, but he thought it was real creepy."

Strangely, on the exact same day, the picture was also posted to a Russian website, Playground.ru, with a different backstory. Translated, it runs:

"The Cooper family has just moved to their new home in Texas. In honor of the house-warming was laid festive table, at the same time decided to make some family photos. And when the pictures showed, they showed a strange figure, it seems that someone's body is either hanging down or falling from the ceiling. Of course, nothing like this during the shooting Coopers did not see."

So, clearly, both sites had gotten the backstory from somewhere, if not each other... but the agreement on the family's name -- Cooper -- with disagreement on the event -- a falling body or a ghostly photobomb -- makes it clear that one site or the other must have either gotten a partial story or just made up details.

        Nonetheless, these two stories are what stuck, usually with the additional detail that the photo was taken sometime in the 1950's... which is likely simply an assumption made by looking at the picture, rather than confirmed information from a knowing source. So, the "Cooper" picture has continued to appear in collections of creepy and ghostly photos with variations of one or the other of the two stories above ever since.

Credit Where Credit is Due

        Now I generally like to track down answers on things like the 'Cooper' photo myself, but it must be acknowledged that I'm not the only person out there who actively digs into the history of strange stories... and, often, I'll run across a person or group who have already done excellent research on the topic of the day, saving me a certain amount of digging (I still double-check cited sources).

        In January 2015, a forum was set up to investigate the origins of the 'Cooper' photo was started in the Metabunk website by Mick West [Link Here]. Though the discussion sometimes chased a few unconfirmed ideas and leads, it had one thing going for it... fantastic luck. You see, amid all the discussion of ways to fake the photo, a new member identified as "Robert C." logged into the forum on May 20, 2015, and had an interesting bit of information to add to the matter. You see, Robert C. was one of the boys in the photo.

"When my older brother sent me this link I was floored. We are the two boys in the picture. Well we were back in 1959. I have many picture like this one, but not this one. My mother had a habit of throwing away pictures that she didn't like. Eventually the ones she kept were passed along to me. What annoys me is that somebody got hold of a family photograph. The story is almost entirely fiction. Our last name is Copper, not Cooper. Does anybody know who did this?"

        To prove the claim, Mr. Copper sent the forum another picture from the same time so they could see that he indeed had photos taken at the same table, and that he and his brother did in fact match the boys in the photo.

Comparison

So it seems likely that one of the photos discarded by Copper's mother was eventually found and altered into the creepy photo.

        The going theory in the forum was that the figure of the falling body was actually a shot of a ballerina in street clothes posing for a publicity shot, explaining the odd pose... and the reason the figure is wearing a necklace that is correctly placed for an upright figure.

        All of which leaves a bit of a mystery. Who originally altered the photo? While it's possible that it was a found photo that Copper's mother had thrown out and then been altered by a random stranger, how is it that the name 'Cooper' -- very close to 'Copper' -- came to be associated with the photo three years after it was released to the internet? If the photo had the family name written on it, that would explain the naming; but again, why so long after it was already in circulation?

        Likely, somewhere out there, there exists a starting point for the image that hasn't been found yet... and, until it is, the Copper family ghost will probably continue to grace spooky websites. For now, I'm marking this account as 'Unreliable' as evidence of the paranormal; and, if a certain ballerina picture shows up, it'll quickly change into a "False Lead!"