There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell. There is only our natural world. Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens hearts and enslaves minds.
- Anne Nicol Gaylor

The Mystery of the Golden Door

by Dale Heatherington


On the 13th of each month thousands of pilgrims flock to the Conyers Georgia farm of Nancy Fowler in hope of seeing apparitions of the Virgin Mary and hearing her message as relayed by Fowler. (These visits have been recently reduced from monthly to annually.) They also consume holy water from a well on the property and stare into the sun to witness sun miracles. Many bring their camera and take snapshots of their experiences. One favorite activity is to point the camera directly at the sun and snap a picture. Often these pictures show unusual or unexpected images. The photos show spurious bright lines, streaks and arcs near the sun not visible to the eye. These amateur photographers often interpret these images as having a supernatural origin instead of suspecting properties of the cameras optics.

One very common allegedly supernatural sun photo (shown above) is the so-called "Golden Door". Although it has only been seen on Polaroid "instant" photographs, some believers claim it's the door referenced in Revelations 4:1 which says:

After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened to heaven:
and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet
talking with me; which said, come up hither, and I will shew thee
things which must be hereafter.

They are so confident that they have proclaimed this "fact" on CNN international news! After all, everyone knows Polaroid instant photos can't be faked!

Is this pattern really the doorway to heaven or just reflections and distortions in the optics of the pilgrims cameras? To find out, I went to the Roswell K Mart and bought the cheapest Polaroid camera they had; a $29.95 Polaroid One Step. I took it to my home several miles northwest of Roswell and took a few sun pictures. In spite of the facts that I'm skeptical and 40 miles from Conyers, the date was February 29th (not the 13th) and the camera had never been blessed by Nancy Fowler I got excellent photos of the "Golden Door" as shown above. I took several pictures under different conditions in an effort to determine what causes the Golden Door effect. I even photographed a 50 watt halogen spot light in a darkened room.

Here is what I discovered:

  1. The camera doesn't have to be in Conyers.
  2. Time and date are not significant.
  3. The sun must be centered in the view finder.
  4. The sun must not be completely obscured by clouds.
  5. The Golden Door image will remain upright regardless of the rotation of the camera.
  6. The Golden Door image will appear when photographing any bright point-source of light, not just the sun.
Clearly, due to the last two conditions, the Golden Door image is created inside the camera and is not a real external image. What causes it? A major clue can be found by looking into the lens opening. The iris has the same shape as the Golden Door image.

To verify that the iris shape is related to the golden Door image, I calculated the ratio of height to width of both the Golden Door in the photographs and the the camera iris. I was not surprised to discover they were identical with the height being 1.9 times the width with curves on the top and bottom. It seems that through some quirk in Polaroid One Step optics an enlarged image of the iris is projected onto the film when a bright point source of light is centered in the field of view. Although I don't know exactly how this happens, I have reached the conclusion the Golden Door is generated in the camera and is not the doorway to heaven, contrary to what some Conyers pilgrims may believe. But you don't need to take my word for it. If you have any doubts I encourage you to try these experiments yourself.

50 watt halogen spot light
The Polaroid iris


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