The Cooper Family Falling Body Photo

The story goes that sometime in the 1950s the Cooper family of Texas bought an old house and moved into it. On their first night there, the father took a photo of Mom and Grandma posing with the two kids at the dining room table. Everyone was happy and smiling. They were living the American dream.

But when the photo was subsequently developed, they saw, to their horror, that what looked like a body falling or hanging from the ceiling had materialized behind them. It hadn't been there when the father took the photo. So where had it come from? Was it an apparition of a deceased former tenant of the house? No one knew.

Is any part of this story true? No. It's pure fiction, but it's recently become attached to this creepy photo, which has circulated widely online. The story appears to have been invented sometime in 2013. At least, I can't find references to it earlier than that.

But what about the image itself? It's definitely older than the story. So what's the real story behind it?

That's a bit of a mystery. Its original source is unknown. The family looks like they're from the 1950s, but that's just a guess. And various details of the photo suggest that it's been digitally altered, which would indicate a more modern origin.

For instance, there's dark "vignetting" in the corners of the photo. Wikipedia notes that vignetting can be a result of "camera settings or lens limitations," but in this case the vignetting looks too symmetrical, so it's probably an effect created by Photoshop (or some other image-manipulation software).

Also, the shadow of the falling body falls the wrong way in relationship to the main light source in the photo. This suggests either that the body has been digitally inserted into the photo, or that it got there as a result of a double exposure. (Of course, if the falling body is a ghost I suppose the shadow argument wouldn't apply — because do the shadows of ghosts follow the laws of physics?)

But what can Google tell us about the origin of the photo?

After some searching,the earliest appearance of the photo online that I could find dates back to Nov 14, 2009, when Sam Cowan posted it to (a fan site for the horror writer Thomas Ligotti). Sam titled it "Family Gathering" and categorized it as "Art".

If it's art, that implies someone created it. I'm not sure if Sam himself created it (or even if his was the first posting of it online). I've tried to contact Sam via Facebook to see if he has any more info about it. Hopefully he will.
[Note: This turned out to be a total false lead. The guy had nothing to do with creating the photo.]

As for the image's subsequent career online, a few months after Sam posted it to, Xavier Ortega posted it to the site Ghost Theory, including it in a gallery of "Retro Creeps: scary portraits from the past." Xavier denied any knowledge of its origin, but his post seems to have been what introduced it to a wider audience, launching it into viral circulation. As I noted earlier, the story about it showing the Cooper family from Texas appears to have been invented in 2013.

So, in summary, my best guess is that the photo was created around 2009 as a piece of horror art. But it soon was mistaken for an actual vintage photo, and eventually a fake story involving the "Cooper family of Texas" was invented to provide some creepy contextual details.


Posted on Mon Oct 27, 2014


The italian mistery site La Bottega del Mistero explain the truth about the Cooper Falling Body photo.
Posted by Nadia  on  Mon Nov 03, 2014  at  10:11 AM
It's a double exposure. The whole thing happened by accident. The man "falling" actually dropped the camera, which is why he does not appear stationary. The family sitting at the table were not aware that frame was already exposed, and the flash used can account for the shadowing in the corners, and why the only thing visible from the accident is the outline of the guy dropping his camera. But, that's just what it looks like to me.
Posted by Murph Strange  on  Sun Nov 16, 2014  at  07:47 PM
I'm sorry, Murph, but your analysis appears, even at a glance and without further research (which the author of this article clearly HAS done), to be erroneous. If the "body" in the picture is that of the photographer from an earlier accidental exposure, and is upside down because the camera flipped over as it fell from his grasp, then his body is positioned exceedingly oddly. If one were to invert his form in the picture, as if he were standing up, then he would have both hands raised above his head, which is a rather strange position for taking a picture. Furthermore, if one were taking a photograph and dropped the camera, surely one would attempt to catch it rather than throwing one's hands upwards into the air. Finally, the subject placement in relation to the entire field of view of the photo is one of the biggest indicators that this is not a real picture of something unseen, as it is in many hoax pictures...if the "body" were not visible to the naked eye, and the family was the object of the photo, then why is the family not centered in the field of view of the picture, and why does the body take up a full third of the field of view?
Posted by James Pleasant  on  Sun Nov 16, 2014  at  09:18 PM
Zoom in on the face of the "Falling Body". Looks unnatural. The nose look odd. Skin texture rough and "bumpy"
Posted by James Campbell  on  Mon Nov 17, 2014  at  12:09 AM
you may want to redo your so called "research" I found that image dating past 2000.
Posted by Andulvar  on  Mon Nov 17, 2014  at  01:47 AM
Well thank god they took a giant picture of the empty space to the left of them!
It was prolly just a double exposure from the snapshots her husband joebob took at the lynching and bbc
Posted by Jara  on  Mon Nov 17, 2014  at  03:49 AM
the back round of the picture is different.
Posted by MARIA  on  Mon Nov 17, 2014  at  05:36 AM
A few notes, looking at the photo.

One - I'd not discount the photo being original on the vignetting alone. On square format cameras of the 50's & 60's, it was much more common and the process that produces vignetting would produce a fairly consistent feature around a square photo.

Two - what I WOULD discount the photo's origin and the vignette on is the framing - again, square format cameras were more common back in the era when this photo was allegedly taken. Note how far to the right the family is, leaving a large void above the table. There's no real reason to include the table at all, so it would have made more sense for the photographer to move the camera to his right and take a step closer to his family to capture the moment. Leaving that void space (which is now filled with the supposed body) makes me question the origin of the photo OR of the intent of the photographer (see next point).

Three - A few people have pointed out it could be a double exposure, but the "ghost figure" appears to be in a very odd posture for this. It's possible that it is a double exposure, and that the father was attempting to play a prank on his family by intentionally taking a photo with an earlier (or later) photo. It's a long shot, but I've seen stranger ways of spending time...

Theory: either the photo was recently made by someone who stumbled upon a different photo and compiled the photo digitally, or it was a prank photo that is originally from around the 50's and the original poster of the photo stumbled onto it and decided to share it with the internet - with or without knowledge of its origin.
Posted by Kage  on  Mon Nov 17, 2014  at  11:09 AM
Three words for supposed "phenomena" like this: Blair Witch Project.
Posted by DoctorGee  on  Mon Nov 17, 2014  at  01:20 PM
Alright, so I have a few things to say about this photo.
1) If I dropped a camera, I would not have my hands in the air like that.
2) Let's look at what's on the table. A teapot, candles, spoons, is that a camera? Is that another camera behind the teapot?
3) I think I'm concerned about the huge black void between the legs of the woman on the far right. The way the kid is sitting would have left the blackness of a skirt pixelated. The blackness there is smooth without pixel.
4) The "falling man" appears to actually be upside-down when paying attention to what looks like a zipper on the shirt. The zipper appears to be lifted upwards toward the head making is seem like someone was actually upside-down.
5) I would also like to concur about the placement of the photo. If it were a family photo, they would have been the center of the photo. Someone would probably not photograph the "messy" table as well.
Posted by Rachele  on  Mon Nov 17, 2014  at  01:41 PM
I wouldn't assume vignetting to be wholly modern either, as Kage said, it is more common in 1950s/vintage images, which could've been exacerbated by the type of flash used.

I also wouldn't discount the original photo as being genuine on account of the family being off centre. We may have enough sense to do that, but common sense tends not to be all that common. Prior to digital cameras with screens on the back to show exactly what is being photographed, off-centre groupings and heads being cut off was very commonplace. Hell, hand an SLR without a live view screen to someone not used to it and you'll more often than not get a lopsided snap.
Posted by AIP  on  Tue Nov 18, 2014  at  12:33 AM
It appears to me that the zipper on the shirt is in fact a necklace, if you look closely you can see what looks like a chain connected to it as well. Also for a body hanging upside down, the shirt would have to be tucked in rather well for it to not fall with gravity even slightly. The shadow between the mothers legs has a ridged line around it as if something has been removed.
Posted by Alyssa  on  Tue Nov 18, 2014  at  05:43 AM
It seems to me the clothing on the falling man is more modern than what the family is wearing. I could be wrong, just saying.
Posted by Rebecca Gerlak  on  Tue Nov 18, 2014  at  11:46 AM
The deception is all in the candlesticks. Look at the candles. See how they send an even dark shadow from the flash to the back wall? If the candles in the forefront are creating such definition, then the people (closer to the wall) would create even more of a pronounced shadow. NO shadows at all behind the people? But look.....shadow around the falling man.
It would seem the falling man is what is real and the women and children are the ghosts!!!
Posted by greg  on  Sat Nov 29, 2014  at  06:27 AM
Interesting photo. I was fooled because I actually believed it was a picture of something genuinely supernatural. That's too bad. However, authentic photos of spirits/ghosts are rare but that's what makes them interesting, after all.
Posted by Marie Longoria  on  Tue Dec 02, 2014  at  12:51 PM
I've discovered that photo experts have looked at the photo and deemed it authentic, what I found interesting is that the original photo was supposedly cropped, hence why they are not in the centre of the photo (why the vignetting or is it the corner of the room). Still a very creepy photo and too strange to be double exposure. I believe the photo to be genuine and the body added after, if added. Leaves me with an awful feeling none the less.
Posted by Laura Watson  on  Thu Dec 11, 2014  at  01:38 AM
That is not a ghost, it's a monkey hanging upside down. I copied the picture and opened in Gimp while playing with the Brightness-Contrast the eyes pope out as well as the rest of the face. It is most certainly a monkey wearing some zip up (yes it is a zipper) outfit.

It's blurry because the monkey is not standing still.
Posted by David G  on  Sat Dec 27, 2014  at  08:14 AM
I'd like to point out that Photography IS a type of art, so listing a photo under "art" does not automatically confirm said photo as fake.
Posted by Autumn J  on  Wed Dec 31, 2014  at  04:50 PM
This is true and the man raped the family. :(
Posted by Cornelious Naggerfagget  on  Sun Jan 04, 2015  at  11:34 AM
The story i had heard about this picture wasn't about ghosts at all... It was that some family moved into an old house and the husband went to take a photo, and as he took the photo a body fell from the ceiling. He's wearing a zip-up flannel, they've been around forever.. The "void" between the lady's legs, isn't a void, it's her legs -.-
I don't think a money would be hanging upside down in some family's house in the 1950s and i don't think it would have the body of a person
Posted by Katt  on  Sun Jan 25, 2015  at  02:21 AM
Hi all. I am the Sam Cowan referenced in the article, and for the record, I had nothing to do with this picture. I snagged it from a Something Awful "Post Creepy Photos" thread sometime between 2006 and 2009. I most definitely had no involvement in creating it, just thought it was cool. (Something Awful can be pretty dumb, but there are some good photo threads with stuff like that.) Sorry I can't add any more info!
Posted by Sam Cowan  on  Sun Feb 01, 2015  at  08:05 AM
Can some one please tell me the names of the people in the photo? (wouldnt mind the name of the guy "falling"
Posted by BillyBob  on  Thu Mar 05, 2015  at  10:17 PM
Creepy still, but good to know it's fake.
Posted by Matt  on  Sat Mar 28, 2015  at  10:14 PM
What if the family is just truly that demented that they took part in a murder,hung the body upside down,and used very complex double exposure to get away with the murder
Posted by John  on  Wed Apr 08, 2015  at  11:47 AM
I think that the picture has had some altering if you look at the mothers legs it looks like something has been removed. Why is the picture not completely focused on the family I mean it's just got more table then family
Posted by Clara  on  Sat Apr 11, 2015  at  10:24 AM
One thing that strikes me is that the proportions of the falling body and the women don't seem to correspond. The perspective is skewed and the falling body is strangely placed. At first glance it seems like the falling body is close to the wall. The shadow around it would seem to suggest this; neither of the women cast a shadow against the wall but the body does, and this implies that in order to do this, the body must be closer to the wall than the women are. But then when you compare the proportions of the falling body to the women, the body is very large and very clumsy. Still reasonably within the realms of possibility given the broad range of race and gender variation of the human species, but it does suggest that either the body is much closer to the camera than it would appear, or else that the falling body is a very big, strappy, probably male individual. The thing is, while granted that the photograph is rather lacking in definition, the falling body appears to be behind the candelabra. You can pass the large size and clumsy proportions of the falling body as being the fault of skewed perspective, and that the falling body is simply much closer to the camera than the women are. But then the candelabra issue raises itself again; if the falling body is just behind the candelabra, and this candelabra is pushed far back on the table, the falling body would actually be closer to the women than an initial glance would suggest. With this in mind, the falling body is either a very, very large individual and the women are very, small, or else it's a very poorly thought out insertion to an existing photograph. The body's large size in comparison to the women and is badly placed enough to suggest clumsy tampering with an ordinary domestic photograph.

Re: the 'gap' between the thighs of the woman to the right of the photograph, looks to me to be the back of a chair.

Re: the odd farming of the photograph is completely believable if the original photograph was taken in the comparatively early days of the easily carried film camera, as the women's clothing and hairstyle would suggest. Some/many of the cheaper cameras had badly placed sights, which would aid and abet an already poor and inexperienced photographer by giving them more visual range than the lens actually had. And seriously, many people are just bad photographers. With digital you can keep snapping and deleting until you get one you like, but with film cameras, multiple shots of the same thing usually just take up room on the film and cost a fortune to process. Usually people just made a couple of snaps and hoped one would turn out.
Posted by Caitlyn  on  Tue Apr 14, 2015  at  03:17 AM
I played with the photo a bit..:

First thing you will say is hey the falling body is just cropped out BUT the falling body is still in the photo..I did replicate the little boys face since I did not have one to put in place..My editing is not perfect but maybe that is what the original photo look like?
This was just for fun..
Posted by Richard  on  Fri Apr 24, 2015  at  09:00 PM
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