Frequently Asked Questions
the beginning of Wilson’s discussion of the Shadow Theory,
there have been two universally asked questions. Here they are
both responded to in brief. Additional questions have already
been added and others will follow as they too become frequently
Why would a Christian want to do this? Doesn’t attacking
the Shroud hurt the Church?
This is not only a permissible thing for a Christian to do, it
is something that, in principle, every Christian should want to
do. Christians should hate lies, but above all else, lies told
within the Church at large. Religious fraud isn’t only a
lie about a thing (a miraculous healing, contact with angels,
a relic, etc.). Religious fraud is a lie about the Church and
Christ Himself. It is just another way of taking the Lord’s
name in vain. We should want to debunk religious hypocrisy far
more than we want to debunk secular hypocrisy. We should want
lies gone because we love the Church and want her pure. I was
very happy to publish my article on all this with a Christian
magazine. Christians should be the first ones to holler if there
is a possibility of deception within the camp. The world should
never have to do our laundry for us.
The Glass Questions
a. How big was medieval glass? Could they make big pieces, or
were they all little like those in stained-glass windows?
When I first presented the Shadow Theory, tentatively, to the
student body of New St. Andrews College, I did not know the answer
to this question. A member of my audience, however, did. As she
had worked a great deal within an artisan glass shop that still
used medieval technique she was able to describe the method for
blowing a sheet and told me that sheets measuring 6'x8' were fairly
common. When I looked into her explanation, before experimenting,
I found that she was absolutely right. Throughout the thirteenth
century glass blowers were capable of creating large sheets. They
would blow cylinders, up to nine feet or more in length and then,
while the glass was still molten enough, they would cut off the
bowls that formed both the top and the bottom and slice the cylinder
lengthwise, unfolding it into a sheet. The sheets would be cut
into small pieces for use in leaded stained-glass windows, or
painted while large.
the Shroud is roughly fourteen feet in length, two pieces of glass
would be necessary, both at least six feet long. The image of
the front of the man would be produced beneath one and the back
of the man beneath the other.
Dr. Antonio Lombatti, Fellow Researcher in Medieval Church History
at the Deputazione di Storia Patria in Parma, Italy was recently
asked about the availability of glass large enough to produce
the Shroud, he responded, “Of course a medieval artist could
have enough glass to produce that relic.” He pointed out
that six foot painted glass windows were not uncommon, and also
mentioned that the length discrepancy between the front and back
images of the man in the Shroud (1-2 inches) suggests two different
phases of production.
So, medievals could blow glass sheets large enough for this process,
but were they clear enough? Wouldn't the glass be flawed? How
about other materials? Would an image made in sand directly on
the cloth, or a thin painted fabric laid out on the linen have
the same effect?
Medieval glass, particularly Venetian, would have been plenty
clear enough to allow for light penetration (it wouldn't need
to be clear enough for us to watch the hummingbirds in the front
garden). That is the first necessary step. As far as flaws go
(wavy surface, air bubbles, etc.) at this point I can only extrapolate
based on what I've seen thus far in my experiments. As I first
began work painting images on glass, I soon realized that the
sun's path was important for more than just the three-dimensionality
of the image. My paintings, and those of the people helping me,
were all positively cluttered with brush-strokes, and brush-strokes
are not visible on the Turin Shroud. The theory went this way:
as the sun travels it will expose every brush-stroke from a mathematically
infinite number of points. The distinct shadow created by a brush-stroke
would be dispersed along a line in reverse of the sun's path.
In addition, the sun's route would shift a degree or two (or three,
depending on the amount of time the linen was exposed), and the
smoothing out of the brush stroke (and the linear path of that
dispersal) would spread out in width as well. The cloth that was
exposed beneath a sun lamp was used as a control for just this
reason. When exposed beneath a stationary light source, the crudeness
of the image remains, or worsens (with brush strokes visible).
When the same image is placed over cloth beneath a traveling sun,
the strokes disappear and the image becomes fluid. This same process
would occur for flaws or waves in the glass. Some of the chunky
spots on the painting I used are far more drastic than a glass
flaw, and yet they are invisible in my image. Also, due to the
proximity of the cloth to the glass (flush beneath it), potential
refraction of light due to waving, would become negligible. Even
more so because of a traveling sun.
far as sand on the cloth is concerned, an image would certainly
be created, but it would not be three-dimensional as there would
be no gap between the sand and the cloth to allow for the sun's
path to shift and sculpt the shading. A thin cloth would work,
and is something that I have discussed with several people at
times. It would only work if it were stretched tight over a frame
(to create the necessary distance between the painting on its
surface and the linen beneath it). The frame itself could not
be too tall, probably no more than one half, to three-quarters
of an inch. However, I find glass more natural and believable
to a medieval forger. For one, glass accounts better for those
never mentioned wrinkles on the cloth. There are regular constellations
of wrinkles on the Shroud that predate the image-formation (there
is blood in at least one of them). These wrinkles are generally
the same color as the image on the Shroud, but occasionally appear
darker. In the shadow theory, if a wrinkle were trapped beneath
the glass, the linen within would be as protected, or more, as
that beneath the painted portions. The result is a dark image,
but also many dark wrinkles. I have yet to encounter any other
explanation for these wrinkles, though there may be one.
In the end, like my initial testing of this image-making process,
I can't know exactly how linen will react beneath medieval glass
until I actually test it, something I hope to do this summer.
However, I believe what I've learned from the disappearance of
my brush-strokes, will apply equally well to glass flaws.
Have you performed any microscopic analysis on the linen in your
"No," is the short answer. This experiment focused
solely on the image-making process. Could I put a three-dimensional
photo negative onto linen using a technique believable to a medieval
forger? I can. So far so good. For the Shadow Theory to hold up
in the long term, it will need to survive on the textile level.
Tentatively, I would like to add a second wave to this experiment,
imposing the same image onto a variety of linens. Fibers from
each would then be analyzed and compared.
Didn’t Nicholas Allen already do this in the mid-nineties?
No. Allen’s experiment is quite spiffy, particularly his
final images, but it is very different. What we have in common:
We are both attempting to create a photo negative by means of
sunlight. As far as I can tell, that’s about it. His theory
(as I understand it) involves a medieval working with an early
prototype of the camera. A corpse would be painted white and hung
in front of the camera (obscura) for a number of days.
The camera itself would be a large box with a quartz lense in
the aperture and the film would be the linen, which had first
been treated with light sensitive chemicals. The end results are
phenomenally realistic three-dimensionally encoded photo negatives
on linen. But Allen’s theory has never been widely embraced
because his images so far outstrip the image on the Shroud itself,
and because of the (apparent) implausibility of a medieval performing
the experiment. Personally, I would like to believe medievals
capable of what he describes, but if his technique actually had
been the one used by forgers it seems that the Shroud would look
a lot better than it does. As for my experiment, it is far less
sexy. I paint glass and set it over linen. A photo negative is
created, and it is three-dimensional. Another difference is the
fact that Allen’s images are created by darkening linen
with light (by means of photo-chemicals). Mine are created by
the natural lightening of linen with sunlight, leaving only the
dark behind. In both cases, a form of photo-technology comes into
play (because light is used), but with my experiment, the forger
does not need to be aware of the fact. Many people who hold to
Allen’s position believe that Leonardo Da Vinci was responsible
for the forgery, as he was most certainly a man capable of doing
such a thing. But he was born in the middle of the fifteenth century.
If medievals were capable of producing an image this way, then
why aren't there dozens of examples formed with similar techniques?
If a forger discovered this technique, I don't find it hard to
believe that he wouldn't tell anybody about it. In fact, I would
find it hard to believe that a forger would spread the good news
of his newly discovered technique. In addition, to a medieval
unable to see the image the way we can see it (in photos, or three-dimensionally
rendered), the Shroud would not seem to be as wildly successful
as it does to us. The forger and others would be left viewing
it with the naked eye and would never see anything but the negative.
The Shroud was obviously impressive to many but was dismissed
by local bishops and even declared to be a fake by Pope Clement
VII (ca. 1390) who required that a priest be present throughout
all exhibitions of the cloth, declaring it to not be the genuine
article. At the time, it could have been considered a successful
forgery, but it was not really considered inexplicable until the
first photos were taken in 1898. So it shouldn't surprise us that
other similar forgeries didn't crop up. And as a medium, a photo
negative on cloth would also hardly seem tempting for other uses.
Would anyone really want an image of their wife done in a dark
and light inverted medium? Of their son? A horse? This really
seems to be the only use for such a technique, as long as the
artist was unable to "develop" the negative.
What about Fanti's study, and the claims that the Shroud bears
a second (and also superficial) image on the reverse side of the
Fanti's study is interesting, and it is also complicated, so it
is possible (if not inevitable) that I misunderstand his work.
To summarize it as best I can: a photo of the reverse side of
the cloth was released by the Archdiocese of Turin (2002), and
more recently Giulio Fanti and Roberto Maggiolo (of the University
of Padua) created an "ad hoc" process for the extraction of an
image and performed it on a digital version of the photo. What
they found was a faint outline of the head and also some darkening
that could potentially be interpreted as fingers and hands. I
do not have the training or the mind to criticize the "ad hoc"
process created for this, but I do have several questions about
the assumptions latent to the experiment which I cannot answer
by reading Fanti and Maggiolo's paper. Assuming that the "ad hoc"
processes were on target and did reveal faint imaging on the back,
rather than creating it (an assumption I am happy to make), I
still have curiosities about the photos used.
have been unable to find technical descriptions of the photos
taken of the reverse side of the cloth anywhere, though I admit
to not having searched too thoroughly. What I would like to know
is the speed of the film, the type of lighting used, the color
of the background behind the Shroud etc. Fanti and Maggiolo appear
to be assuming that because the image on the front of the cloth
has been established as superficial, and an image has been extracted
from a photo of the reverse side of the cloth, that whatever appears
in their photo must be superficial as well (since the center of
the cloth has been shown to be blank). But as John Kerry's daughter
can tell you of her embarrassing moment on the Cannes Film Festival
red carpet, photography can penetrate cloth. Depending on the
circumstances surrounding the photos taken in 2002, Fanti and
Maggiolo may very well have identified the image on the front
of the cloth in a picture of the back. Photographers I have spoken
with have said that this would be more than possible. The assumption
that what appears in a photograph only exists on a two-dimensional
plane (the surface of the cloth) is a faulty one, depending on
the lighting, film speed, etc.
this stage, these are questions, not arguments. I don't know the
photographic information, and when I do, these questions may be
answered. But for now, integrating my theory with Fanti's findings
does not seem as difficult as it first did (I had completed my
experiment and submitted my article to Books and Culture,
before this study was released). I do not need to discover how
to place a superficial image on the reverse of a cloth already
bearing a superficial image on the front. I need to produce a
cloth with a superficial image on the front, and then be able
to extract an image from a photo of the back (using photographic
techniques similar to those used on the Shroud in ‘02 as well
as using "ad hoc" digital image-enhancement techniques similar
to those used by Fanti).
for now, I am undaunted by Fanti's findings, though I am aware
that my confidence could yet vanish, as they say, like the morning
Daniel Porter, online shroud guru, has blown you off, calling
the shadow theory "preposterous" and giving Christianity Today
[Books and Culture] a "Good grief" for publishing your
article. Are his criticisms legitimate?
Porter's concerns (though they might be better described as out-of-hand
dismissals) are very legitimate. If glass didn't exist in sheets
large enough, then obviously this theory falls apart. The trouble
is that glass did exist big enough. Porter cites the rarity of
sheet glass in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds, but luckily
that's not when a forger would need to find some. He posts a diagram
of someone making spun glass, always created in messy circles
nowhere near large enough. But cylinder glass blowing (creating
sheets from 6x8 to 9x5) was a common technique beginning as early
as the eleven hundreds, and used effectively through the thirteen
hundreds. It would have been costly for a medieval to acquire,
but not unfeasible.
to all of Porter's chemical complaints: I was not trying to prove
that the Shroud of Turin was faked using this method (though I
believe it to have been). I don't yet have the data to make that
sort of claim (if I ever will). I set out to prove something with
a relatively narrow hypothesis, and I proved it. A medieval could
quite simply create a three-dimensional photo negative on linen
(even superficially) like the image on the Turin Shroud, without
using paints, chemicals, or dyes. Whether the chemical attributes
of a cloth exposed this way matches the chemical properties of
the Shroud, remains to be seen. But a few comments nonetheless.
Nothing Porter mentions disturbs me, and I've been aware of all
of it for some time. I had the privilege of interacting with Dr.
Raymond Rogers about this theory and the chemical data before
his recent passing. He was kind enough to agree to help me with
chemical and textile analysis of images placed on era linen beneath
medieval blown glass (a follow-up experiment I would have been
quick to begin were he still alive). His concern with my theory
was that the fibers within and without the Turin Shroud's image
showed a similar degree of sun damage, something I believe would
be the case in mine once the image was bleached to superficial
from the reverse side. As to how the surface of the image itself
would react to sticky tape (as per Porter's concern) we won't
know until we let it sit around for six hundred years. Porter
admits that my image is somewhat/kinda/sorta three-dimensional
and photo negative, but says that others have achieved the same
effect by daubing paint on cloth. I don't feel the need to explain
the problem with paint-daubing, or statue-rubbing, because I think
Porter knows better.
the past I've appreciated information he has made available, and
I still do. His work has been very helpful. There remain all sorts
of things that would need to be explained for this paradigm to
be generally accepted as explaining the Turin Shroud (as is always
the case with any new paradigm in any context), but it shouldn't
be blown off yet.
Why should we listen to you? Do you really think you're qualified
since you're not a scientist?
Whether or not I'm not a scientist is not disputed. I tain't.
But enough about me. Are my images photo negative? Does the sun's
path encode them three-dimensionally? The fact is that they are,
and it does. I'm not qualified as a scientist, but then a medieval
forger would not have been either. One of my first assumptions
was that if a medieval could do it, then whatever he used would
also most likely be available to me, a Lit guy. And yes, I called
in scientific back up. If Dr. Minnich had not provided me with
some 101 guidance on how to set up an experiment, I would have
flailed about. His help was much needed.
course, if I shift the emphasis of the experiment to a chemical
and textile level, using medieval glass and replica linen, I don't
plan on going to Wal-Mart to buy a microscope. I would accept
the offers of some of the scientists from around the world who
have requested samples of my linen, and ship stuff out to people
who know which end of a microscope to look through. My role, after
creating images (easy and uncomplicated, as it turns out) will
be to collect and collate findings. I think Dr. Minnich has taken
pleasure in the fact that I'm not a scientist, and hopefully not
simply because some people consider it blasphemy, and an intrusion
into a sacred grove. He has been asked by a couple people about
my lack of AKC pedigree, and he has been kind.
is the irony of science that often someone out of the mainstream
shoots an outside shot with such accuracy."
"Someone who isn't biased by all the previous experiments has
a different perspective. That's often the way things work in science."
will be sure to send him cookies.
Daniel Porter has turned up the volume on his criticisms of you
and your Shadow Theory. He still says that there wasn't any glass
six feet in length in the 1300s. He says that you were unaware
of Fanti's claims that he had found a second (superficial) image
on the reverse side of the cloth, that you have no understanding
of the problem caused by the blood, that you say Rogers' findings
"only just gained definite credibility" and that you blow them
off as artistic arguments that prove nothing. Can you explain
Because an AP story about the Shadow Theory went on the wire,
quoting both myself and Porter, these questions have come in a
lump. So I will try to answer them in a lump. But first, I can't
resist some comments. This is all a great deal of fun for me.
Being a Lit guy, it's not often that I get to be accused of shoddy
science. It's quite novel. But then, being a Lit guy, I think
I'm having more fun because this is all such a terrific story.
Especially because the two current players–myself and Porter–
who have been pitted against each other in the recent microcosm
of the AP release, both appear to be non-scientists. I hope I
am not insulting Mr. Porter, but I haven't been able to find much
of a bio on him, though I did find a bet (winnings to benefit
a charity) he placed a while back that no one would explain the
Shroud before 2012. If he is a scientist, I'm sure I'll hear about
it, and I'll stand corrected when I do. But for now, I can't help
have no desire to get in a fight with Mr. Porter. As I've already
mentioned, I've appreciated his site in the past and I'm sure
I will in the future (assuming I ever want to even look at the
word "Shroud" again). But that said, I'll respond to his criticisms
as I can.
he accuses Christianity Today [Books and Culture]
of shoddy work for printing my piece, and of ABC for running a
story about it (and I assume Discovery News as well, since they
did something very similar). As he has obviously read at least
portions of my article, I assume he also read the conclusion.
I am quite aware of the rules of logical proof, and I state very
clearly that I have not logically proved the Shroud to be a fake.
I tackled a very specific experiment: Could I, a scientifically
untrained lit-guy, three-dimensionally encode a photo negative
(like the one on the Shroud) onto linen, without the use of paints,
dyes, or chemicals. Turns out that I can. This is something that
no other theory of Shroud forgery has accomplished (I don't know
if I should interpret Porter's removal of his comments that other
theories did accomplish the same thing as a retraction, but I
will). I can also make my image superficial. Now for the objections.
glass. Well, I don't know what else I can say. All of my information,
from every tangible source, has said that cylinder glass-blowing
became common as early as the 1100s. But if it makes Porter rest
easier, the same result should be produced by a painting on a
thin fabric stretched on a frame.
You were unaware of Fanti's findings. Well, yes. I was
unaware of them. Because he hadn't found them yet when I conducted
my experiment and wrote my article. However, now that I am aware
of them, I have responded. Porter is right. There is no way (that
occurs to my mind) that the Shadow Theory could account for a
superficial image on the front and back, and nothing in between.
"Period." Ignoring the potential problems Fanti's findings also
cause for authenticity, I will repeat what I have already mentioned
above (responding directly to Fanti's claims). I don't need to
produce a superficial image on the front and on the back,
to match the Turin Shroud. I need a superficial image on the front,
and a photo of the back, from which a faint outline of an image
can be extracted using a digital "ad hoc process." Assuming
that Fanti's "ad hoc" process was legitimate, which it
very well may have been, I'm still not worried. It is perfectly
possible that a photo of the back of the cloth could return data
from the front. Photographs frequently accomplish such feats (much
to the embarrassment of some). Fanti's assumption that the data
in the photo he received and scanned into his computer, only existed
on a two-dimensional plane (the surface of the cloth), is a faulty
problem of the blood. In short, some claim that the image
does not exist beneath the blood stains. Others deny that the
blood stains even exist. Both claims can be found in the hallowed
pages of Peer-Reviewed journals (peace be upon them), though I'm
sure the peers were different. I don't feel at all qualified to
comment on either. Both sides accuse the other of cheating, and
as it is impossible to call the teacher and have everyone grabbed
by an ear and taken in to see the principal, I'll just have to
be content with not even having an opinion yet. I have been aware
that if the very surface of the linen inside the blood stains
is light, and not dark, that explaining it could be tricky. But
I'm not sure just how we would know this (despite reading studies
that think we do). The linen is, after all, stained with
blood (or vermillion and ocher according to some). In addition,
when it comes to bleaching my cloth from the reverse side (to
make the image superficial), I have no idea how linen inside of
blood stain reacts to sunlight. It just wasn't something I felt
I should include in this round of experiments.
casting aspersions at Rogers. No, I'm not. Mr. Porter didn't
follow my article. There have been people hooting and hollering
"foul play" about the carbon date since it was announced. Those
hoots and hollers have "only just gained definite credibility."
Why did I say they had gained credibility? The correct answer
is, "Because of Rogers' findings." Rogers is, in fact, the cause
of the credibility. I don't know if he was right, but he might
be. However, it doesn't impact my theory much at all. A handy
place for some profiteering villain to grab a good burial shroud
for purposes of forgery, is from a tomb in Palestine. Cue the
middle-eastern bug parts, and Jerusalem pollen. Cue the alleged
traces of burial aloes. Cue a very unhelpful date. It is possible
for a carbon date to overthrow authenticity, but a BC date won't
necessarily toss the Shadow Theory. As to dismissing Rogers' findings
as "artistic argumentation," perhaps Mr. Porter read too
quickly. That phrase had a different antecedent. It referred to
arguments that the Shroud must be genuine because of artistic
similarities between old icons and the image on the Shroud. And
those arguments availeth nothing.
fibers in the image, caramel-like substance, etc. This isn't
a surprise. Again, I have not yet explored the chemical aspects
of my cloths (which will most likely happen this summer). But
for now, this data does not necessarily explain away my theory
(though who knows what will eventually happen). Linen fibers will
shrink in sunlight as a result of dehydration. It is no surprise
that the fiber inside the image would be thicker, with a looser
surface. There remain a number of options. The cloth may have
been already ancient at the time of the forgery, and all of its
fibers may have born a nanometers thick carbohydrate layer (as
a result of aging) before the bleaching. Forgers may have tried
to apply some substance to the image in an attempt to "fix" or
protect it after its creation. They may have tried to fix it (they
certainly would have known it could be bleached out), they may
not have (we don't actually know how dark the image was in 1350,
or if it's been fading). I'm not certain that we'll ever know.
I don't even know how bleached and unbleached linen age over the
course of six and a half centuries. What I'll need to do is have
some replica linen woven, place my superficial image on it (maybe
treat the image with some melanoidin), and then let it sit for
six hundred and fifty odd years, with a set timetable of when
my descendants are allowed to fetch it from its box and expose
it to light for a bit. Then we might know something, but for now,
as Raymond Rogers told me in regard to this fibre discussion,
"There is much to be learned from linen, and I think we are only
just scratching the surface."
throw this whole thing back into a nutshell: I have developed
a theory. That theory involved a prediction that a painted piece
of glass placed over linen would clear two of the greatest hurdles
in the mystery of the Shroud, producing an image both three-dimensional
and photo negative. A painted piece of glass did just that.
This is the first Shroud theory (including authenticity) that
actually clears those two hurdles (without photo chemicals and
the invention of the camera). A cloth wrapped around a body, even
a body that pulses energy (of any kind) in the moment of Resurrection
would not make such an image. It would create (at best) a large
scale Death Mask of Agamemnon–looking like a man had been flayed
and his skin laid flat. Of course, this newly proposed Shadow
Theory has not yet worked its way into all the corners, or encountered
all the data. I don't know if it ever will. There remain so many
variables on the chemical level that I don't know if moderns will
ever get the sort of epistemic certainty about the Shroud that
we always so desperately crave. And I don't think it matters.
Faith is far more fundamental than what we commonly think of as
greatly appreciated the little interaction that I had with Raymond
Rogers before his passing. He was encouraging and helpful, even
calling my theory a "good approach" (though I'm certain he thought
I was all wet). I would have loved to have had the opportunity
to work with him on a follow-up to this first experiment. I told
him that I had nothing to lose in this flap. If I am wrong, have
I lost anything? My faith in the Resurrection remains. If I am
right? What have I lost? So, Christ was wearing something else
on the first Easter day. While I–in my humanity–am confident that
the Shroud was faked, and even believe that I have figured out
how, I have been wrong before. My NCAA bracket, for example, is
a shame to myself and my family. But my bracket toasted in the
first round, and this theory has survived well beyond that.
What about claims that sun bleaching merely accelerates bleaching
that will occur naturally as the material is exposed to light.
If your theory were correct, wouldn’t the image have already faded
into the background as light exposure over time equalized the
There are two possible explanations (of course assuming my theory
to be correct). The first is simple. The image may have already
faded substantially from the original. We have no way of knowing
how dark, or bright the image was in 1350. The fact that the shroud
spends most of its existence in a casket would account for why
any of it is still here, though the variety of times it has been
exposed to sunlight would have faded it to some (unknown) extent.
The other possibility (and slightly more probable in my estimation)
is that something was applied to the image in an attempt to fix,
or protect it from deterioration. That could have been done by
the actual forgers, or even by keepers of the shroud hundreds
of years later who were trying to preserve the relic. This could
also potentially account for aspects of the “caramel-like” substance
on the image-bearing portions of the cloth. Truthfully, the chemical
aspects of a decaying cloth (or the chemical aspects of decaying,
unbleached and bleached cloths) just wasn’t part of this experiment,
so what I say here has to be taken as logical speculation. I do
hope to produce images on a variety of linens (of different ages
if I can get any), and then farm those out to the lab coats who
know how to work microscopes. I think I will have much firmer
ideas about chemical and textile issues, after that process is
complete. This experiment focused on the ability of a medieval
to produce a photo negative image that was three dimensional,
which has now been established. Of course, chemical analysis of
similarly produced images may be conducted elsewhere before I
even get around to organizing my second phase. I mean, though
my grandmother did tell me not to, I gave out my recipe.