When trucker Saul Vazquez of Mount Sterling, Kentucky, came upon the scene of a motorcycle accident on July 12, he rolled down his passenger-side window. Stopped across the grassy median from the other side of a local highway where the accident occurred, he quickly snapped a photo.
The image, shared on Facebook, wasn't just any photo. It has been shared more than 15,000 times, and appears to show a ghostly white figure with a human form rising skyward above the busy emergency team. They were tending to Charles or “Chuck” Deadman, 74, of Pompano Beach, Florida, who passed away as the result of the accident on Highway 15 between the cities of Campton and Stanton.
TODAY initially reported the story on Thursday. On Friday, People reported that Deadman's daughter, Tammy Silberberg of Delray Beach, Florida, told the publication that the image was "likely him coming back for a moment, to say goodbye to his family."
"He was very much a family-oriented man," she said. "He was probably reaching out to his family one last time."
Silberberg wasn't available for comment when TODAY tried to reach her.
Charles Deadman was a member of the Harley Owners Group, or H.O.G. Fort Lauderdale Chapter #3343, sponsored by Chester’s Fort Lauderdale Harley-Davidson. Chapter director Jim Zimmerman told TODAY that “Charles was a super-nice guy, clean-cut and dressed very well. He never rode with us as a chapter, but came to the dealership on Saturdays and Sundays and was always very involved. He loved the chapter.”
Deadman, who ironically told fellow H.O.G. members they could call him “the dead man” as a nickname, was “very competent” on his motorcycle, said Zimmerman. With his energetic and independent spirit, Deadman also kept track of thousands of accumulated miles ridden on his treasured bike.
Zimmerman remembers one Monday when the elder rider said, “Put me down for 397 miles this past weekend.” He said Deadman took off in June for Indiana to see his son, and that he was returning from the trip when the fatality occurred.
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NBC affiliate Lex18 in Lexington, Kentucky reported on Wednesday that when staff contacted Vazquez, “all he would he would say is that the photo has not been altered.” TODAY tried to contact him but was unsuccessful.
“Saul is a very good guy, and if it’s real, you can without a doubt believe him,” said his friend, fellow trucker and volunteer fire department captain Kenneth Haynes of Beattyville, Kentucky. He told TODAY he was not at the accident scene that took place in a neighboring county.
“Did somebody fake this photo? I don’t think so,” said paranormal investigator and president of the Ghost Research Society, Dale Kaczmarek, of Oak Lawn, Illinois. Kaczmarek told TODAY he’s looked at “tens of thousands of photographs during the past 30 years and I usually know how to recognize a fake photo.”
As to whether the vaporous form in Vazquez's photo is a “ghost,” Kaczmarek said the term is typically used in a pretty generic way. “I would lean toward calling it something possibly paranormal or supernatural.”
He said he doesn’t know the details of circumstances about how the photo was taken — the type of camera, the angle of the sun, the weather, the photographer’s distance from the scene and whether reflections could have played a role.
“It does appear to have a humanoid-type figure rising over the accident site,” he said. In his experience, these types of occurrences are reported when someone meets an untimely death, “one moment alive, dead the next. It usually happens immediately after an accident has taken place. First responders sometimes say they also ‘felt something very unusual’ during that time.”
Deadman’s obituary said he was born in Chicago. It noted that in addition to his son and daughter, he has “five grandchildren (whom he regularly babysat)” and three great grandchildren.
Friends who signed the online memorial “guestbook” offered their condolences, and shared fond memories of Deadman. “Charles was always such fun to chat with and be around. He really livened up any conversation," read one comment.
"Always a smile on his face when he was at the Harley dealership and meetings," said another. "Prayers for his family and friends. Ride on friend!"