The image of a murderer captured in the victim's eye
Optography and optograms
Scientists once believed that the last images stored in a murder victim’s eyes could reveal the identity of the killer.
And it’s been reported that even bobbies investigating Jack The Ripper’s trail of destruction may have used ‘optography’ in an attempt to snare the fiend.
Snapping images of the departed’s retina, it was hoped that criminals could be captured as their victims’ bodies held the evidence to convict them.
‘Image on her retina may show girl’s slayer’
A 20-year-old woman, Theresa Hollander, had been beaten to death and her body found in a cemetery. But the fact that her eyes were still open gave her family hope: perhaps the last thing she saw—presumably the face of her murderer—was imprinted like a the negative of a photograph on her retinas, writes Lindsey Fitzharris for The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice.
Accordingly, a photograph of the woman’s retina’s was taken, “at the suggestion of a local oculist, who told police that the retina would show the last object within her vision before she became unconscious,” The Times reported. The grand jury would see the image on Saturday.
By Marissa Fessenden
May 23, 2016
In 1863 an English photographer took a photograph of the eye of an ox right after death and used a microscope to search for any evidence of images left behind on the animal’s retinas. He claimed that upon inspection he could discern the fleeting image of stones arranged in the exact same manner as the slaughterhouse road, and proclaimed that this meant that this was the last thing the ox had seen as it was slaughtered there with a blow to the head.
In 1876 the idea was further fuelled by the rather inconclusive research of physiologist Franz Christian Boll and his German counterpart Wilhelm Friedrich Kühne, who would go on to become one of the most prominent figures in the field.
People quickly latched on to the idea that optography could be used as a tool in forensic investigations. The College of Optometrists in the U.K. reports that police photographed the eye of a murdered man in April 1877, only partly aware of what optography involved.
With little or no understanding of optography it was fairly common for the police to take pictures of murder victims’ eyes, just in case images could be lifted from them.
It got to the point that murderers would occasionally destroy their victims’ eyes out of fear that these optograms could be used against them. One such case was the murder of a Constable P.C. Gutteridge in 1927, of which it was written:
In the early hours of September 27, 1927, occurred a crime that shocked England with its brutality…In the very act of doing his duty Constable P.C. Gutteridge of the Essex constabulary was shot down. He was found by the roadside with four bullet wounds in his head, each fired from a distance of about ten inches. A shot had been fired through each eye, and it was believed by some at the time that the murderer had done this out of superstition. There is an old belief that a picture of the murderer is imprinted in the victim’s eyes.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Although forensic optography was quite seriously investigated there simply wasn’t enough consistent success in the procedure to make it a truly viable option, and it soon fell out of favour. However, fiction writers can’t seem to get enough of it. In Jules Verne’s 1902 novel, The Brothers Kip, the Kip brothers are falsely accused and imprisoned for the murder of a ship’s captain. When the captain’s son examines an enlarged photograph of his late father’s head, he sees in the eyes the faces of the real murderers and the brothers are freed.
In the 1972 film Horror Express, various unearthly murders committed on board a train are investigated. During the autopsies, images are found in the liquid inside the eyeball of the corpse.
In 1975 the Fourth Doctor extracts some of the ocular tissue of an alien to project not just still images, but video footage of the last moments of life of the Wirrn Queen. The Doctor likens it to an old Gypsy belief of the “eye retaining the last image after death”
In the 1994 RoboCop: The Series, the first episode “The Future of Law Enforcement” Robocop takes a blurred image from a corpse’s retina and then enhances it using a computer.
Even today optography tickles the public imagination. Somehow, intuitively, it feels as if it ought to work. ‘Does it work?’ and ‘Is it true?’ are questions that frequently crop up on social network forums.
Does the technique of optography have any merit?
By the way, the photograph in the case of Theresa Hollander never did reveal anything to help or hurt the suspicions that her ex-boyfriend was responsible, Fitzharris reports. He was tried twice and found not guilty.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
How Forensic Scientists Once Tried to “See” a Dead Person’s Last Sight by Marissa Fessenden
Last Sights of the Dead: The Weird Science of Optography by Brent Swancer
Optography and optograms College of Optometrists