When Ruth Haines of Bellmead watched Maury Povich’s two-part series on Waco on Monday, she thought she saw a “ghost” standing on the bunker of a burning Mount Carmel during some of the television footage.
It turns out she did — but instead of the ghost-like angel she hoped had come to save the children, the image she saw was actually a creation of the television show itself.
“He’s about 20 feet tall, dressed in white and has long hair,” said Haines, a councilwoman from Bellmead, who thought the image might be an angel.
“It’s sort of like the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “With Mount Carmel ending so tragically, I hope this will heal some of the wounds by those affected.”
At least 80 people, members of the Branch Davidian cult, died April 19 in a fire at the cult’s compound, Mount Carmel. They and their leader, Vernon Howell, also known as David Koresh, had been involved in a 51-day standoff with federal agents.
Talk show host Povich came to Waco earlier this fall to tape a show looking back at the tragedy.
The show aired Monday and Tuesday of this week.
Haines, unable to rest since the show Monday, wanted to see if anyone else could see the ghost-like image on the screen.
So she took the tape to others in the community, popped it into their VCRs, and, one by one, they began to see it, too.
In fact, the tape caused quite a stir in the community of 8,500 just outside of Waco, as neighbors, public officials, teachers and others flocked to Bellmead’s City Hall to catch a glimpse of the so-called apparition.
Elisabeth Dietrich, Bellmead’s financial officer, said she saw the image, too.
“It could be whatever you wanted it to be,” she said. “But if you lost someone and saw it, it would be a real comfort.”
Bellmead’s City Manager S.G. Radcliffe was present during much of the standoff at Mount Carmel and helped clean up after the fire. Bellmead is near Mount Carmel.
Radcliffe said he thought the image on the television show looked a little like Jesus Christ.
One clinical sociologist in Waco said people who experience trauma like those who watched Mount Carmel burn often create something good from the bad situation.
“In the midst of a trauma like Mount Carmel, where the people were so close to it, the mind does anything to cope, to make sense, to bring something good out of it,” said Martin Pritchett. “It often plays tricks on you.”
But it wasn’t their minds playing tricks on them.
What Haines and others thought was an “angel” coming to save the children consumed in the Mount Carmel blaze turned out to be a stunt by the Maury Povich Show.
A spokesperson for the show confirmed the images were edited into the fire footage that aired on Povich’s “Answers from the Ashes.”
In a split-second frame during Tuesday’s show, a bright, three-story image appears in the fire near the second-story window of the Branch Davidian complex before disappearing into thin air.
“What people might have interpreted as ghosts in the fire footage featured on the Maury Povich show was actually a super-imposed image of David Koresh,” a spokesperson from the Maury Povich Show said in a statement by the producer.
In addition, the spokesperson said, “The image was not altered in any way by the supernatural, but was simply a graphic incorporated into the show.”
Haines, disappointed about the revelation, said that what she thought was an angel turned out to be a fallen one instead.
“It’s really weird, and I don’t want to exonerate David Koresh in any way,” she said.
“This throws a whole new light on what I wanted to do, which was to help the families who lost loved ones in the fire, especially the children.”
According to a spokesperson with the Maury Povich Show, there have been no inquiries into the superimposed image of Howell.