The new year started with viral photos that captured a shadowy image that had thousands of Facebook and social media users debating whether or not a giant winged demon or angel had been standing in the middle of a dark Arizona street. With the poster asking for people’s reactions to the image, the more practical, cynical, and skeptical also weighed in, pointing out that the figure might be a product of shadow-play, photoshop, or some form of hoax.
Fox News reported this week that a man named Richard Christianson first posted the set of “demon” photos, showing what appeared to be an ominous winged demon standing in the street of Laveen, Arizona, a village located inside the city limits of Phoenix. Christianson captioned one photo with the question: “What the hell do you see in this picture for reals??? Anybody.”
The grainy photos were quickly shared on Facebook and on social media, and the story was soon picked up by various news stations — like WTEN in Albany, New York — around the country. And although Christianson seemed to have sparked an ongoing debate as to what the eerie image might be, he has since dropped out of it and deleted his original post from Facebook.
But once something goes viral, it can’t be stopped.
Speculation as to what the winged figure might be include the supernatural, with some people even going so far as to assign some sort of apocalyptic portent to the so-called demon sighting. As the Daily Express reported, one social media user commented that the winged image was a sign of the biblical End Times, an apocalyptic end of the world construct from the Christian religion, and that we are already living in the last days.
“But with the EVIL days we live in now, what if it is a demon wreaking evil deeds all around us? Whether you want to believe it or not, these are the END TIMES.”
While some have posited that the dark and foreboding image is just a trick of the light, some have gone as far as to push the idea that the winged demon is a hoax, suggesting that the original photo may have been photoshopped or tampered with in some way to produce the image that has been described as “big as a house,” with wings, and with what looks like two horns projecting from the head region.
So who better to look into a potential hoax than Snopes? The urban legend-busting and conspiracy theory-debunking website says it had reached out to Christianson, but other than telling the site that he had taken the “demon” photo at 7:48 p.m. on New Year’s Day, he gave them no additional information.
Snopes reported that the figure had generated speculation about the End Times, or that it just might be a palm tree, but noted that some had said it resembled the Mothman, the West Virginia urban legend creature said to be human-like, with blazing red eyes and 10-foot wings. The Inquisitr reported in late November on some recent photos taken in West Virginia that seemed to suggest to some that the Mothman creature had returned to the area.
The debunking site also noted that this was not Richard Christianson’s first brush with a viral story. In 2015, he posted a “dramatic video” on social media which showed him rescuing an orange-and-white cat that had become trapped next to a chain link fence on a freeway.
In the Facebook comments section, USA Today reported that user Danielle Holland had a practical suggestion that might help solve the mystery. She said whoever took the picture should take the photo again in daylight.
And when it is all said and done, the “demon” photo might simply be a picture of a palm tree. Another Facebook user saw something in the photo that could very well identify the true nature of the so-called demon.
“It’s a palm tree, if you look closely to the left in the first picture there’s another one,” Gabriella Swedin wrote in the Facebook comments section, per USA Today.
Since Snopes did not call out the original poster for tampering with the photo or attempting to generate a hoax, the man, Richard Christianson, could very well have just captured the seeming demonic figure and wanted to share it on Facebook. But is the demon photo a harbinger of the Christian End Times, an angel or demon? As with most paranormal or supernatural sightings and events, there is almost always a more mundane explanation. And darkness, poor lighting, and the prevalence of palm trees in the area do not a demon make.
[Featured Image by Fotokostic/Shutterstock]