In early June, I was sent a link to an article claiming a security camera captured an “odd creature” (Brown 2019). I took the (click)bait and watched the video, which shows the driveway and walkway outside the front door of a house. There is a sedan parked in the driveway and a light illuminates the scene from below the camera. Within seconds a small figure comes out of the door (just off camera) and does a chicken dance/wobbly walk down the drive until the video cuts out. The entire video is ten seconds long.
The video was originally posted on June 6, 2019, by Facebook user Vivian Gomez (Gomez 2019). The description included with the post states, “So I woke up Sunday morning and saw this on my camera and am trying to figure out … what the heck?? First, I saw the shadow walking from my front door then I saw this thing … has anyone else seen this on their cameras?? The other two cameras didn’t pick it up for some reason.”
The video, which has since been dubbed the “Dobby Video” due to the figure’s resemblance to the character Dobby the Elf in the Harry Potter stories, has since gone viral with over 178,000 shares and almost 16 million views on Facebook alone. After receiving over a dozen emails and messages about it, I decided to take a closer look.
My first impression is that this is just a kid who wandered outside and was acting goofy. After looking into it a bit, this is still what I believe it is, and the figure is most likely Gomez’s son, Bobby. I watched the video several times, focusing on different aspects of the short video to see what clues could be found. According to the USA Today article (and several comments on the Facebook thread), “Some people suspect that the video may be doctored, while others say that someone could have created an elf-like puppet. But Gomez insists it’s real.” I agree, I think it is a real video of a real boy doing a real chicken dance as he struts down the driveway.
Gomez seems to really want people to believe she has no idea who or what this figure is, because in the next line of the article, Gomez is quoted saying, “If anyone tested it or whatever they do, it would confirm it’s not altered.” This is both true and misleading at the same time. With CGI special effects dominating films, television, and commercials, it’s easy to assume any strange video like this was created by use of software anyone with a computer can download.
However, there’s no indication that this video required any special effects. Creating a video like this only requires the antics of a young boy acting goofy for a few seconds. Gomez’s son, Bobby, is nine years old and appears (according to available photos) to be just as skinny as the figure in the video. However, by repeatedly stating the video was not altered or “photoshopped,” she’s being truthful … but also misleading people down a thought-path by making it seem that video manipulation would be the only possibility for creating such a video (other than the figure being a real “creature”). One of her commenters advised Gomez to send the video to Paranormal Caught on Camera, a Travel Channel show known for presenting previously explained videos as genuine proof of the paranormal (Biddle 2019). I really hope Gomez doesn’t take that advice.
One of the first things I noticed was the lack of any information on the screen; there is no date, time, or even a watermark from the manufacturer displayed on the screen. Granted, this may be the default setting for this particular security system, but it still throws up a red flag for me. Such information is helpful to provide police in case of a break-in or other such emergency. However, there is nothing to indicate when the event we see in this video took place. The only clue we get is from a Facebook post from Gomez stating it was at 8:59PM “last Sunday” (June 2), the Sunday before the video was posted (Gomez 2019). Without a time/date stamp, this could have been taken at any time (for example, the night before it was posted), but we’re forced to take her word for it.
As the video begins, it becomes obvious that the camera records an audio track, which is rare when we get surveillance footage to review. We can hear the screen door open (the click of the latch handle when it opens and another click when it closes), as well as see its shadow of the door opening, indicating the figure came from inside the house. This is our first clue that the “thing” is not as “unknown” as Gomez would have us believe. You’d think Gomez would be more concerned that the unknown, possibly dangerous creature had been inside her home with her young child present.
I took a few screenshots of the video and enhanced the images. Several things stand out; right away I noticed that “Dobby” is wearing flip-flops. This can be seen in the video if you look closely at his feet. Thanks to the audio, we can also hear the distinctive “slap” noise the footwear creates as the figure walks down the driveway.
Secondary to the flip-flops is “Dobby’s” clothing. Instead of a pillowcase (which is what Dobby the Elf wore), this figure is wearing shorts and what appears to be his tee-shirt tied around his head. At first, the figure is washed out due to a light located below and to the left of the camera. However, as the figure moves further down the driveway, his features become a little clearer. I enhanced the screenshots and we can clearly see shorts and something (presumably his shirt) wrapped around his head.
It has been suggested that the figure is wearing a mask (of Dobby the Elf). Although there are such masks available (at Amazon.com, for example), they are made of vinyl and do not flop around as we see in the video. As the figure turns his head right and left, we see the material on his head flops about quite easily. After enhancing the images and seeing what most likely is a t-shirt, I grabbed one of my own and wrapped it around my head for comparison. I think we have a winner.
Despite what can be determined from the video, Gomez insists she does not know what the “creature” is. She also doubles-down on insisting she has not used Photoshop to edit the video and attempts to explain why the video is so short. In a response to a Facebook comment that suggest “E.T.??,” Gomez replied “Right?! It doesn’t disappear on my cameras and only did when I posted it in case anyone thinks I photoshopped.” This initial statement really stands out for several reasons.
- If the figure only “disappeared” when she posted the video, then the figure should still be on the original footage. One only needs to take video (with a phone) of the event as it plays out on a monitor.
- The video stops abruptly. The figure walks in front of the car (parked in the driveway) and the video suddenly stops. Security cameras don’t simply stop recording like that; once triggered they will continue to record until the motion in the scene stops. Gomez provides no technical reason the video stops recording in over one hundred and fifty comments on her Facebook page. Why not provide the full unedited version?
- When asked (on Facebook) where “Dobby” went after the video stopped (into the street and the field across the street), Gomez replied “I don’t know. The video stopped when it was in the driveway.” This contradicts what she previously stated, that “it doesn’t disappear on my cameras” (and only did when she posted the video to Facebook), meaning that she would have continued to view what the figure was doing after the recording had stopped. That’s a bit too convenient and is also a common tactic with these types of viral videos; having it stop just before important information is about to be revealed, like perhaps when the kid turned around to came back inside the house. Very simple editing—setting a beginning and ending point to a video—helps to hide crucial details that would take the “odd” right out of this video.
- Another contradiction in Gomez’s original statement of “the figure doesn’t disappear on her cameras” (just when she posted it to social media) is this would lead us to believe she saw the figure continue to go about its goofy routine—which is not possible since she didn’t discover the footage until the next morning (according to her original Facebook post).
- In an interview with Inside Edition, Gomez changed her story, adding that her camera “only goes for ten seconds,” which is something she hadn’t mentioned in her Facebook comments. Although this may be true, why didn’t the camera record for another ten seconds if triggered by movement? And why would she previously say, “it doesn’t disappear on my cameras and only did when I posted the video”? This just doesn’t make sense.
During the Inside Edition interview, Gomez was asked by the reporter, “Could it be your son Bobby, just goofing around?” Gomez replies “No, I wouldn’t let him out at dark by himself.” The reporter followed up asking what Bobby was like. Gomez hesitantly described her son as “he likes to play around and … joke around … and he loves to dance.” Her obvious hesitation in answering the questions is another (in a long line) of red flags for me. She’s just not convincing. However, her description of her son is exactly the type of behavior we see in the video. I also couldn’t help but notice that none of the media has been able to interview (or just chat with) her son on camera. Granted, I can understand a mother not wanting her nine-year-old child being hounded by the media, but it does raise an eyebrow that he’s been kept out of sight.
As I watched and listened to video several times, I noticed that in the last second of the video (which is only ten seconds long) there appears to be someone speaking, which may be another reason the video cuts off abruptly. I could not make out the words, but I was sure there was a voice.
I sent the clip to my friend, Darrin Swanson, who has twenty-three years’ experience as a musician and soundman. He took the video to his studio and enhanced it. This is what he sent back to me:
After receiving the clip and uploading the clip into my Cubase (DAW), I gave it several listens with headphones. I don’t like to do a lot to audio clips because it can drastically change the interpretation of the audio. First, I reduced the low frequency spectrum, reducing the low rumble noise in the clip. I then added a slight noise reduction for clarity. Lastly, I boosted the end of the clip by 12db to try to bring some definition to the spoken voice. In my opinion, there is definitely a giggle and several spoken words. I believe the spoken words came from within the house, but the audio is too garbled and quiet to ascertain what was said. Nevertheless, it has the audio diction and meter of spoken words. In conclusion, the fact that the spoken voice is there tells me that somebody else witnessed the events of the video firsthand, leading me to believe that the video is a hoax and just another attempt to gain their fifteen minutes of fame, which they unfortunately have achieved. (Swanson 2019)
In the interview from Inside Edition, Gomez is quoted saying, “I don’t know if it ever will be solved.” Sure, if any additional footage is never released, the mystery will never be 100 percent solved. However, there is more than enough information provided for us to arrive at the most likely conclusion; this video shows nothing supernatural, not a strange creature or alien (yes, some suggested aliens). This is just a playful kid from a playful family that made a goofy video that went viral.
The real shameful part of this is not a family pulling a “fast one” on social media, rather how much of the news media picked it up and continued the mystery mongering instead of doing an actual investigation piece. This is, as many of you are already well aware, quite common these days. However, not all news media outlets embraced the idea of spreading the “mysterious creature” idea; Shelby Lin Erdman wrote an article, which appeared on the Fox23 website, where she took the extra time to check Snopes.com (a good practice) and openly doubted the story (Erdman 2019).
I also checked Snopes.com, and they came to pretty much the same conclusion as I did stating, “While we haven’t been able to definitively determine what this video shows, the footage likely depicts a young child in a silly costume dancing in the driveway rather than an encounter with a fictional character” (Evon 2019).
I totally agree.
- Amazon.com. 2019. Harry Potter Dobby Child’s 3/4 Vinyl Mask. Available at https://www.amazon.com/Harry-Potter-Dobby-vinyl-Childs/dp/B000UTNAX0/ref=asc_df_B000UTNAX0/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=330568160546&hvpos=1o2&hvnetw=g&hvrand=8976158007170102242&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9007290&hvtargid=pla-349366933168&psc=1.
- Biddle, Kenny. 2019. Travel Channel’s ‘Paranormal Caught on Camera’ fails to find the Google search bar. Available at http://www.adventuresinpoortaste.com/2019/02/16/travel-channels-paranormal-caught-on-camera-fails-to-find-the-google-search-bar/.
- Brown, Daivin. 2019. ‘What the heck’ is that? Security camera captures odd creature, and viewers have theories. Available at https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/06/11/bizarre-creature-caught-on-security-camera-viral-video/1411177001/.
- Erdman, Shelby Lin. 2019. Creepy creature in home security video may look like Dobby, Gollum, but probably not. Available at https://www.fox23.com/news/trending-now/creepy-creature-in-home-security-video-may-look-like-dobby-gollum-but-probably-not/957628751.
- Evon, Dan. 2019. Here’s What the ‘Dobby’ Alien Video Most Likely Shows. Available at https://www.snopes.com/news/2019/06/11/dobby-alien-video/.
- Gomez, Vivian. 2019. Facebook post June 6, 2019. Available at https://www.facebook.com/vivian.gomez.35977/videos/vb.1039839102/10216790852937217/?type=2&video_source=user_video_tab.
- Inside Edition. 2019a. Mom Still Freaked Out Over ‘Dobby’ Driveway Creature Captured on Camera. Available at https://www.insideedition.com/mom-still-freaked-out-over-dobby-driveway-creature-captured-camera-53602.
- ———. 2019b. Did This Family Just Catch Dobby the House Elf on Home Security Footage? Video Analyst Weighs In. Available at https://www.insideedition.com/did-family-just-catch-dobby-house-elf-home-security-footage-video-analyst-weighs-53560.
- Swanson, Darrin. 2019. Personal correspondence via social media.