This particular news item came to me by way of a local paranormal group who tagged me in a post with a link (to the news item) and the comment, “Kenny Biddle, thoughts?” (PCINJ 2019). I clicked on the link and read the article; oh yes, I had some thoughts. So, I decided to take a closer look. Good thing I did, because I received over two dozen more requests over the next few hours, from ghost hunters and skeptics, to check it out.
Upon opening the linked article, I was introduced to Heather Brough, Joshua Higgins, and baby Lily, a family living in Highland, Michigan. Brough and Higgins are engaged, and they have been living in a guest house owned by Higgins’ mother (Adams 2019). After seeing surveillance footage from their nanny cam a few weeks ago, they now believe that it is haunted.
The video in question – a very short video clip – is about five seconds long and was repeated in a close-up version in order to extend the clip run time (Campbell 2019). The video shows the darkened second floor of the guest house, with a Pack ‘n Play playpen in the foreground in which 15-month old Lily is sitting quietly inside. As the video begins, a figure in the background, already in motion, is seen moving from the center of the room to the left side, appearing distorted and transparent at times in the few seconds we see it. After the figure passes the playpen, baby Lily stands up in her playpen and looks around for someone. The clip cuts off before the “ghost” disappears into thin air, which the Daily Mail article reported happening (Green 2019). This figure, the family claims, is a ghost that’s been haunting them – and apparently attacking them too.
Brough, 25, says she found “three deep purple scratches” on her baby’s cheek after waking her from a nap a few weeks ago. This is what prompted Brough and Higgins to check the nanny cam footage, hoping to find out what happened. The couple claims the male figure (their description) that is seen walking by Lily’s playpen is the cause of the scratches, as well as other activity going on. According to a quote from Brough, she freaked out (after seeing the footage) and stated she “stopped what I was doing, and I ran upstairs and grabbed my daughter” (Campbell 2019). Although the various news articles make it appear Brough grabbed her child immediately after the ‘ghost’ walked by Lily and was scratched, there’s just no way to establish a valid timeline of events. Nothing is time/date stamped, nor are we given a time frame for any of the personal experiences – everything is presented vaguely.
I searched the all-knowing internet to see if there was a better clip of the video, because the versions I had already viewed were very short and low quality. Experience has taught me that the best places to look are the websites known for being the worst perpetrators of bullshit news, and I was right. The Daily Mail (Green 2019) had the longest clip available – twelve seconds! Although it begins in the same spot as the others (with the figure), the video continues for a few seconds after all others have been cut off. This gave me part of what I was looking for; the ‘ghost’ walked into a hallway, it did not disappear. This seemed like a normal action any of us living people would do. Sadly, the longer clip didn’t tell me where the figure originated from, since the video starts after the figure had already begun moving.
There’s something else I noticed right away – the ghost was casting a shadow, two actually. This tells me the figure is a solid, physical object able to reflect light. In the first milliseconds of the video, as the figure is moving to the left, you can see its shadow move across the ceiling right by the ceiling fan. Another shadow is cast on the far-left wall as the figure gets nearer that side. Naturally, this caused me to look for a light source. I found an obvious one; a large screen television on the right side of the video. The television is on and has something on the screen. There’s no movement of what’s on-screen during the video, leading me to believe whatever was on the television was paused. This brings up the obvious question; who was watching TV?
WXYZ Detroit sent reporter Allen Campbell and a camera crew to the house to interview the family. While interviewing Jim Higgins (Joshua’s father), we get a better look at the area in front of the big-screen television. It looks like a large bed is positioned just in front of the TV, which makes sense since this appears to be their bedroom. I’m sure you’re thinking by now, “the ghost is probably one of the parents that was lying in bed watching TV”. You know what? That’s what I think too. But let’s keep digging.
The “nanny cam” shown at the house by WXYZ news crew is a Logitech Circle 2, which boasts up to 1080p HD video and 180-degree field of view. The Logitech website states it has “night vision that’s visible up to 15-feet.” This statement has a note attached, linking to a support page addressing the Circle 2’s night vision and the best conditions it should work under. One condition stands out, “The area you want to monitor is clear and unobstructed with no objects close to the camera and its field of view. The reflection of the night vision light from objects may cause the automatic system to over-compensate, darken the image, and reduce visibility of objects in the distance.”
This is extremely important because it describes exactly what we see in the video. In the lower right corner of the scene we can see the table the camera is set on, very close and reflecting the ‘night vision light’ (infrared light) back at the camera, which causes the camera to over-compensate and the overall image to darken. There are also several large objects obstructing the view; the playpen and what may be the back of the bed or other piece of furniture. All of this contributes to reducing the visibility of the figure in the distance. Remember, this camera’s night vision is only rated to 15-feet under the best conditions; this video is not under the best conditions, not at all.
A review by Gabe Baron, known on YouTube as the Security Baron, states the “night vision left a little to be desired” (Baron 2018). In his full review of the camera, Baron sits about four to five feet away from the camera while it is in night vision mode (starting time stamp 12:55), and you can clearly see the amount of motion blur as Baron moves his hands up and down. It’s pretty bad, and he’s only a few feet from the camera and in good lighting. In the ‘ghost’ video, the figure is across the room, easily estimated to be between 10 to 15 feet away.
Taking into account the poor conditions, the camera’s lacking night vision, and the obvious motion blur demonstrated in Baron’s review – it is very plausible and most likely to be either Brough or Higgins in the video. I would surmise either Brough and/or Higgins had been watching television and had reason to get up out of bed, perhaps go down to the kitchen for a drink/food or a visit to the bathroom, paused the video and walked across the room not realizing they were being recorded. At a later, unspecified time, they reviewed the footage and due to a lack of understanding of video cameras, concluded the distorted figure was a ghost.
Brough also attributes other activity to the alleged ghost; chief among them are the scratches on Lily’s face and her own experience of waking up feeling as if hands were around her neck (Campbell 2019). This latter experience was described a bit differently in the Daily Mail article, which quoted Brough stating “I woke up to get ready for work one morning and it felt like someone was choking me. It shook me to the point where I decided to buy our camera.” (Green 2019). I found it odd that such a frightening experience of being choked and shook by an unseen force was not mentioned in the on-camera interview with WXYZ or in any other source. Also, she was waking up when this experience occurred; was she dreaming, or perhaps this was a side-effect of acid reflux which can cause people to experience heartburn or coughing and choking while sleeping (NSF 2019). We just don’t have enough information on this claim.
I could only find one photograph that depicted the scratches on Lily’s face. Although there does appear to be lines on the side of her face, the image is too poor of quality to determine the severity of the scratches. There is no mention of the scratches bleeding or even if the skin was broken. The photograph is a general photo of the child; it was not focused on documenting the injuries. To be honest, if the photo was presented without priming the viewer about the scratches, one might not even notice the scratches. There’s also no date on the image, so we can’t be sure whether the scratches in the image happened around the same time the video was captured – which also has no date/time stamp.
Aside from the technical issues, it is not uncommon for babies to scratch themselves. We know from her statements that Brough discovered the scratches after waking the baby up from a nap, which most likely took place in the playpen we see in the video, but there’s nothing to rule out the possibility Lily scratched herself while sleeping.
Even if we were to pretend the figure in the video was a ghost, there’s nothing in the clip that would indicate any form of attack or injury took place; the figure simply walked across the room and into the hallway – quite mundane if you ask me. If there had been such an attack, where the child suddenly received three “deep” scratches, that child would have been screaming bloody murder (and Momma would have come running).
I’m not sure exactly what the motivation behind these claims is, but I do have my suspicions. I went to Heather Brough’s Facebook page earlier today and noticed that she posted her first public post since November of 2018; it was a link to a GoFundMe account she had created that day (March 26, 2019) with a goal of $5,000. She was asking for this amount to help her move out of the guest house, citing her daughter’s safety from all the paranormal activity as the main reason for the fund raising.
I reached out to Brough through Facebook, “Hello, my name is Kenny Biddle, and I’ve been investigating paranormal claims for the last 20+ years. Your video of what is believed to be a ghost walking in your house was brought to my attention by several paranormal groups. After taking a look at it, I was wondering if there was a longer clip – perhaps footage showing the few minutes leading up to (and including) the clip that was shared on ABC Action News. The clip that has been shared starts with the figure already in motion, and I was hoping to see where it originates. I noticed the TV was on, so being able to confirm it wasn’t someone (living) watching TV and perhaps got up to get something, would be beneficial. I’m not saying this was a hoax, I’m just trying to get as much information as possible to understand what the video is showing. I appreciate your time in reading this. I hope to hear back from you. Have a good day.”
I haven’t received a response yet, nor do I expect to. Did they capture a ghost on video? Nope, the evidence is certainly against that idea. Is this a hoax? (Maybe). Is it an innocent misinterpretation of experiences due to ignorance? I really don’t know. However, I did notice when I went back to Brough’s Facebook page a few hours later, the post for the GoFundMe account was no longer visible to me. The GoFundMe account is still active, and as of this writing she has raised $30.
- Baron, Gabe. 2018. Logitech Circle 2 Home Security Camera Review. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=776&v=Ryt_8fG_ogo
- Campbell, Alan. 2019. Michigan couple says ghost seen on nanny cam scratched daughter. https://www.wxyz.com/michigan-couple-says-ghost-seen-on-nanny-cam-scratched-infant-daughter?fbclid=IwAR0jF2aH1z1yAUfivhJprn7He876BUvTQavLKleUVHxnmwnwwtHv_A7eDvo
- Green, Jessica. 2019. Spooked parents check their babycam after their baby daughter wakes up with three deep scratches on her face – and spot a ‘ghostly male’ walking past her crib. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6846885/Spooked-parents-check-babycam-spot-ghostly-male.html
- Logitech. 2019. Circle 2: How it works. https://www.logitech.com/en-us/product/circle-2-home-security-camera/page/circle-2-how-it-works
- Logitech. https://support.logitech.com/en_us/article/How-does-Circle-2-s-night-vision-work-best
- National Sleep Foundation. 2019. GERD and Sleep. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/gerd-and-sleep
- Paranormal Consulting & Investigations of New Jersey. 2019. Facebook Post. https://www.facebook.com/PCINJ.org/posts/2624081720999325?comment_id=2624732997600864¬if_id=1553628386450317¬if_t=feedback_reaction_generic