Ghost Hand Prints on My Back

Fake or genuine?

Lately it has been a large number of spam emails circulating around our community, with a title “Avoid Siloso beach, Sentosa – Singapore”. Have you also received one or two? It looks like one of those friendly advisory mails that warn us a piece of danger, with real life experiences (bad and scary of course), right from our trustable next door neighbours. Without fail, it tries to tell us a paranormal incident, or more precisely, a sign of mischievous ghosts who tried to murder a girl. It encourages people by using a scary story to heed the advice.

This is the exact version of the circulation email:

On 4 July 09 -my Wife friend’s daughter went to siloso beach to frolick in the sun and sea and returned home with not just the sports bra tanline but a set of child’s handprints and one more on the shoulder, a bigger hand.If you look carefully in the first photo, you’ll see the really long nails on the bigger hand. So they went to the Chinese temple and checked and apparently a child-ghost tried to push her into the water but didnt work…so the adult-ghost tried on her right shoulder, didn’t work as well..turns out that, as Buddhists, the god they were praying to at home was protecting her.

Freaky.. I guess this explains the one-drowning-incident-a-year problem at Siloso beach?

Avoid deep waters or late nights there if you can.

Photos attached along with the circulated spam email

The story is telling that two ghosts tried to push the girl into the water, in an attempt of drowning her. In doing this, the two ghosts, one big and one small, left their handprints on the girl’s body. It is claimed to be evidenced by the mysterious handprints left on her shoulders as shown in the photos.

SPI doubt that whether they are really handprints made by the ghosts. If that is real, this then is a true case of paranormal happening – ghosts left behind physical traces of murder.

The story continued by glorifying the power of Buddhist blessing that defeated the ghosts’ attempt of murder. Then it moved on to an allegation that explains the infamous yearly drowning at Siloso beach. At the end it gave a benevolent advice to avoid deep waters or late nights where scary ghosts are implied to roam about. As you can see in this story, by a self-righteous belief, they attributed the ghosts who tried to kill the girl and the protection by the Buddha as a convincing fact. The only visible hard evidences however are the handprints and may be the fact that the girl didn’t die.

So did the ghosts make the handprints? Impressive they do certainly look, as if resembling shapes of human hand and finger. What actually and physically caused the handprints, if not by the ghosts? Putting the superstitions aside, SPI probes rationally into the handprints mystery for the truth.

SPI Analysis

Theory 1: The handprints are suntan of some shades

This canopy theory suggests that something of shapes of hands covered parts of her body during the suntan. The shades can be possibly tree leaves or even patterns of some cloths such as Hawaiian design garments. The girl may fall asleep during her suntan, and unknowingly such canopy was just right above her. The canopy that cast the shadow on her skin may well resemble fingers and hands. For example, palm tree leaves do look like claws or hands with long fingers.

The same theory can extend to possibilities that her friends may have played prank on her, giving her some surprise suntan shapes by holding her shoulders for some period of time. Or possibly may be some maple leaves fell on her shoulders, giving her the handprint-like suntan marks.

Tree leaves that may leave suntan marks on the girl’s body
Design patterns on the cloth may have cast the handprints
Examples of tan lines resulted by covering of swim wear

This theory suffers a main flaw that the outline of the sunburn marks are quite distinctive. That means if there were some canopy covered partially her body, it would be quite close to her skin. So unlikely tall trees can result in such marks with clear outlines. Also, as we all know, the sun moved. If the girl remained stationary under the canopy, the angle of the shade projection from a tree would change.This theory may not sufficiently explain the handprint marks, though it may be a first impression that came to many minds.

Theory 2: Uneven sunscreen oil

Examining closely on the ghostly handprints, they do not look like exactly handprints. Think out of the box. Initially by the story most people would have been misled to perceive that they are handprints. Only some of the photos whereby certain angle from above the corner of the shoulder, and by covering part of her shoulder from below with her shirt, give rise to visions of handprints. This is an illusion. As shown in the photos below, the illusion is caused by the position of the shirt the girl was wearing. The edge of the shirt marks the boundary of the handprints making them look like the wrist lines. The green lines mark the shape of a hand with the fingers. The red lines in the photo complete the shape of a hand, by resembling the wrist, the ending boundary of the hand.

The edge of the shirt when being pulled down to certain position, outlines visually the wrist (red lines)
That is how and why the prints look like ‘hand’ prints.

Now the shirt is pulled further down, and viewed from direct back. Do the prints still look like handprints? Not anymore.
They look more like Bart Simpson headprints (!!)

Now look carefully on the other photos especially those that offer a full and direct view of the her back. The sunburn concentrates on her top shoulder, with edge of some zigzag patterns. Some of the zigzag patterns were said to be the handprints. When you look closer, especially in the third photo above, the handprints are actually two long areas that start from the edge of the shoulder and extend all the way down on her back. Ghost hands? Not really. They more look like Bart Simpson’s head though.Just to further reinforce the fact that they are not handprints, below we show some suntan marks of handprints. The handprints are of course deliberately created by placing a hand on the skin during the suntan. Compare the photos yourself with those so-called handprints created by pulling up the shirt to create the illusion.

Real handprints by suntan, for comparison
Naturally, the next question is that whether this kind of patterns are normal or really, paranormal. We can safely rename those falsified handprints to ‘Bart Simpson headprints’ (BSH in short) by now. Below shows a photo of BSH which is one of the common suntan patterns resulted by improper sunscreen oil applying. Followed by that photo is a collection of photos as evidences of uneven suntan oil applications. Well, it is in fact very normal for all of us. This is nothing unusual at all, by applying suntan lotion or oil inappropriately, to result uneven marks on body.

Suntan that resembles Bart Simpson’s head due to uneven sunscreen oil coverage – normal phenomenon

Other examples of uneven coverage of sunscreen oil

Now, the big question is, what could possibly cause this kind of Bart Simpson’s head suntan prints?SPI Yuiiko narrates her experience last year which left her with more or less the same type of BSH prints on her back. Yuiiko explained “BSH print is nothing but result of uneven coverage of sunscreen oil applying. I got it before in one of the swimming and tanning sessions in a swimming pool. My husband who applied the oil on my body, didn’t cover evenly the whole skin area. He rubbed the oil on the back, limbs, etc, but forgot to apply the oil evenly over my shoulder. The top edge of the BSH mark is the oil from his fingers, therefore it has the zigzagging shape. They are just finger marks. The BSH print I used to have is same as that on the girl in the rumour.”

Yuiiko having her suntan session

ReenactmentIn order to further reinforce that the so-called ghost handprints are merely normal suntan, we tried to demonstrate how the Bart Simpson head shape suntan can be created. It is reenacted by using face mask cream and applying it on skin in a shot of up-down action, without rubbing the cream on skin thoroughly.

Bart Simpson head patterns recreated by using face mask cream
1. Ghost handprint created by rolling up the shirt to approximately the ‘wrist’ position – illusion created
2 – 4. When cream is only on fingers, distinctive straight lines are made

In the above photos, there are essentially two experiments. The first is to recreate the Bart Simpson head patterns on the back. It is made simply by first rubbing the cream on the hands, and then glided the hands vertically down in one shot from shoulders to the lower back. The patterns give a somewhat zigzag at the top resembling the fingers. Now if the full BSH pattern is covered up to the wriest position, it could look like a handprint (as in the ghostly rumoured photo).The second experiment, we only applied the cream on the fingers, without rubbing full on the hand palms, and then print them directly on the skin. We have several simple lines instead of a wedge of BSH pattern. What does it mean?

It means that in the ghostly handprint photos, whoever applied the uneven sunscreen oil on the girl’s back, had rubbed the oil on his/her palms. But perhaps hastily, he/she roughly just rubbed one or few shots over the girl’s back. Obviously, her shoulder was not thoroughly rubbed, leaving the finger marks on. In this section we explained how the Bart Simpson head patterns were made by first rubbing the cream on hand palms and just rubbed down from the shoulder in one or few shots. It is just an illusion by pulling up the cloth to cover the rest and to expose only the top part that resembles a handprint.

What a hoax

What actually happened in the whole incident? If the reader will indulge me, I shall outline a board scenario for what happened, and venture some theories on what the hand prints are.

First of all, the EXIF information is detected missing from the photos under question. EXIF is a metadata tag that is like a fingerprint that tells information about camera used, aperture, shutter speed and ISO information etc. If the story is true, why bother to go into technical length and remove the EXIF information? We find it suspicious. Was it something somebody is trying to hide?

Under our inspection program, the EXIF information were totally removed from that set of photos. Why hide if no guilt?

Just as a speculation, the girl might have unknowingly made those strange marks on her skin. Well, not exactly strange. The suntan marks look like handprints only when viewed from an angle above the shoulder with the cloth covering the lower part. The girl went to have a suntan on one fine day. It is likely that somebody else, e.g. her friend, who applied the sunscreen lotion on her, did a lousy job. From the suntan line, the girl should be wearing a “Y” belt sport bra. Because of the “Y” shaped belt, the bare shoulder blades (trapezius) look visually prominent. So intuitively, one would prioritize rubbing most of the lotion on the shoulder blade areas. The shoulders top were somehow ignored. That was how it was filled with finger marks but not evenly covered with sunscreen lotion. The suntan went on, the girl may not have noticed the uneven sunscreen coverage because the oil was soon absorbed into the skin.Probably only when she got home, she felt the sensation of skin burn and examined how bad the burn was. That was why she took these photos. Out of such set of photos, there are few photos with the special angles and collar positions that reveal the interesting shapes of handprints. However it is not known who made up the story and circulated the photos. Taken a sentence from the story “my Wife friend’s daughter went to siloso beach…”, it seems the girl was not the original poster, if that sentence is true. Perhaps somebody snatched the photos and created the hoax out of them.

If anybody has any information about the photos, or you are the owners of the photos, please contact SPI (

1-3. It is not uncommon that some people did not apply the sunscreen lotion unevenly and thoroughly.
As such, as shown in the photos, it is possible to create suntan lines that resemble ‘handprints’
4. When the sunscreen oil was absorbed into the skin, it became invisible and usually the swimmer would not have noticed it easily.

The handprints are not ghostly but natural phenomenon as a result of sunscreen lotion was not being properly applied. The collar of the shirt and the angle of camera shot gave an illusion that the prints are of hands. Actually they are shapes of Bart Simpson’s head when viewed at a perpendicular angle. The story is a lame rumour that conveniently made use the strange shape of handprints, called them ghost hands that tried to push the girl into the sea. The story went on to tell the benefit of being a devoted worshiper of a religion and hence got protected. From time to time, there are always similar rumours, for instance, somebody escaped death from a car accident, and his jade amulet was broken into halves as if the jade took upon the death on the owner’s behalf.It was condemned in STOMP that a liar out there was just trying to promote a religion. It is just another lame hoax that embeds within a superstitious propaganda for glorifying a supernatural power. By the Chinese cultural belief, ghost is an intangible and dark being that is very afraid of sunlight. Ghost can’t even substain for a slightest moment by exposing under a scorching sun. It would be more of the ghost killing itself than killing the girl by pushing her into water under a bright hot sun (!!). The last sentence warns people to stay away from deep water. It is not the deep water that kills. It is the ignorant people who are illuded into fallacies, disregard the truth and underestimate the risks.

To the SPI, it is another case closed.