A surveillance camera at the First Judicial District courthouse downtown captured a strange image Friday morning that left sheriff’s deputies, lawyers, clerks and judges scratching their heads as to what it might have been.
Some thought it was the ghost of a man killed at the courthouse more than 20 years ago after bringing a rifle to the building and taking several people hostage. Others felt it had to be a reflection from a passing car or a piece of cottonwood tree fluff. Still others threw their hands in the air, but somehow liked the image anyway or at least the hullabaloo it prompted.
“I don’t know what it is, but I think it’s neat that it showed up on a Friday,” said Sally Saunders, assistant to District Judge Stephen Pfeffer. “Now we have something to talk about.”
Deputy Alfred Arana first noticed the image when he arrived at the courthouse early Friday morning and began reviewing the surveillance video from the night before, said Sgt. Vanessa Pacheco of the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Department. Pacheco arrived half an hour later, and Arana said he’d seen something he couldn’t explain on the digital video and asked Pacheco to rewind it, she said.
When she watched the video, Pacheco was stunned. “It’s something unexplainable,” said Pacheco, who watched the 12-second clip over and over Friday. “I don’t believe in ghosts so I don’t think that’s what it is.”
The image, which starts at 7:27:11 a.m., shows a bright spot of light that comes from either the roof or near the courthouse’s back door on Catron Street — which is used only by law enforcement personnel. The light flits with buglike movements toward the west, appears to move across the front bumper of a parked police car and then traces a small semicircle in a gravel area in the frame’s foreground before leaving the frame at 7:27:23.
“To me, it looks like a person walking, but I don’t know why they have this neon light on their head,” said Steve Aarons, a lawyer.
The light looked a bit like a crab and seemed to crawl like a bug, though Pacheco and others who regularly look at the video said they’ve seen bugs on the lens before, and they don’t look like Friday’s image.
Perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the image is that it appears to cast shadows that look a bit like the movements of the invisible movie monster in the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Predator. Many who watched the video said the shadows looked like legs. Mary Marlowe, another lawyer, said she saw hands in the image.
Courthouse employees debated whether it might have been a reflection. However, the angle of the sun didn’t fit with the image, and a large tree outside the door shaded most of the area from above.
“It looks like a reflection of something but the angle of the sun is all wrong,” said Juanita Sena-Shannon, a court clerk.
District Judge Michael Vigil said he, too, thought it was a reflection at first, perhaps from a passing car. But when he looked closer, he realized a reflection would have moved in a straight line, which the light did not. “It doesn’t make sense,” the judge said. “It is bizarre.”