The Houston Photograph
In Houston, Texas, on January 24, 1950, a strange photograph was taken by the Douglas Studios of a halo-like light above the head of Rev. William Branham. Gordon Lindsay took the negative to George J. Lacy, Examiner of Questioned Documents (who was not an employee of the FBI). Lacy was asked to determine whether or not the light could have been the result of improper exposure, double exposure, tampering during the developing process or retouching. This investigation concluded that the unusual brightness was caused by light striking the negative.
Message believers are under the impression that this photograph was verified by the FBI, hangs in the Hall of Religious Art in Washington, D.C. and was surrounded by a number of supernatural interventions that proved that the photograph was miraculous in origin.
The question is: Do these claims hold up to scrutiny?
What William Branham said
William Branham said that God would not allow a picture to be developed of Rev. Best pointing his finger at F.F. Bosworth
William Branham also said that it was George J. Lacy who first called it a supernatural light
Facts surrounding the picture
It was during the Houston campaign in 1950, that Rev. W. E. Best (representing the Houston Baptist Pastor's Conference) accused William Branham of racketeering and leading people astray. A public challenge was issued, and F.F. Bosworth accepted a challenge on the subject of "Divine Healing Through the Atonement." While Bro. Branham cautioned Brother Bosworth against being argumentative, the newspapers reported that the two ministers talked at once, and a fist-fight broke out in the audience. The meeting was given front-page publicity in the Houston newspapers.
As the debate got under way, it was quite apparent that the sympathy of the vast audience was almost entirely on the side of the visiting evangelists. Large numbers of members from the same denomination as Rev. Best stood to their feet as witnesses that they believed in Divine healing and had in fact been healed.
We are told that Rev. Best secured the services of Mr. James Ayers and Mr. Ted Kipperman, professional photographers from Douglas Studios in Houston, to document the evening. They were there in addition to the newpaper photographers. After taking several photos of Rev. Best, the photographer snapped a picture of William Branham, who spoke briefly just before the service closed.
There are some specific facts that do not agree with William Branham's version of the events:
George J. Lacy's report did not comment on whether the source of the light was natural (i.e. electric indoor lighting) or supernatural. While newspaper articles about the Coliseum around that time show that there were flood lights in the building (including photographs of a concert by the Beatles), George J. Lacy's report does not indicate anything about the source of the light.Some observers note that if the pillar of fire was directly over William Branham's shoulder, it would have cast light on top of his head and the pulpit. Instead, the top of his head is not lit and the light appears to be from a source beyond William Branham. The most likely explanation for this is that the light is actually one of the indoor floodlight banks that was used in the Sam Houston Coliseum. These observers state that if the light was not from indoor lighting, it may have been the result of the flash from the camera reflecting off a metal pole or beam in the background.
A Better Explanation?
The picture immediately above on the right was taken in the Sam Houston Coliseum in 1969. At right is Willie Somerset (#12) of ABA's Houston Mavericks basketball team. Note the "pillar of fire" type light by the player's hand. If we zoom into the light by the players hand (see photo on left), we see something that is not that dissimilar to that of the picture of the "pillar of fire" that was photographed over William Branham's head.
And this also lines up with the argument that the light passed through the lens of the camera and showed up on the negative. Because of the principle of "depth of field", a picture taken with a telephoto lens would tend to cause anything in the background to be out of focus. And given the poor dynamic range of film in the 1950's, a bright light source such as a rack of flood lights, would look "blown out" or overexposed in the photograph, just as the "pillar of fire" appears to be completely white.
The Light Struck the Lens
If, as George J. Lacy confirmed in his report on the photograph that light struck the negative, then it is hard to understand how no one else in the auditorium saw the light above William Branham's head. But if the light was, in fact, a bank of floodlights then light did pass through the lens and did strike the negative. Was the actual reason that no one noticed the "pillar of fire" was that they all saw it for what it really was - one of the flood lights in the Sam Houston Coliseum.
If the "pillar of fire" was an actual light source above William Branham's head that showed up on the negative, why doesn't the photo look more like the edited version the right?
It must also be appreciated that the picture of the basketball players is from 1969, almost 20 years after the photograph of William Branham was taken. It is likely that the lighting for a church gathering would have been set up completely different from that of a basketball game and also likely that the light fixtures would have been completely different 20 years earlier.
The Role of the FBI
William Branham stated many times that the FBI was somehow involved in authenticating the Houston photograph:
George Lacy was the fifth president of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners, which he helped found in 1942. He owned and operated an indepedent forensics lab in Houston, Texas. There are a number of things that William Branham was not honest about relating to Mr. Lacy's involvement with the picture:
William Branham appears to have invented all of these various stories in an attempt to hype the Houston photograph.
George Lacy's comments
Is this story true? We don't think so.
If George Lacy spent all of this time looking at the picture, don't you think that he would have recognized the man in the picture, William Branham?
The Hall of Religious Art in Washington, D.C.
William Branham stated that a copy of the Houston photograph was in Washington, D.C.:
The problem with William Branham's statement is that there is no Hall of Religious Art in Washington, D.C. There is a copy of the picture that someone sent to the U.S. Library of Congress for preservation. But the photo does not hang on the wall and there is no caption underneath it. Rather, it sits in a filing cabinet. We have personally been to the Library of Congress and have seen the photo in the file folder. It was never hanging on the wall but remains in a filing cabinet.
Report by George J. Lacy
After conferring with William Branham, Gordon Lindsay arranged for the negative to be turned over to George Lacy to examine the negative.
After his examination, Mr. Lacy gave a certified statement indicating that it was his opinion that the negative was genuine, and had not been "doctored" or retouched or the result of a double exposure.