4 Years After Her Mother Died, A Woman Was Shocked To See A Familiar Figure On Google Street View

As Danny Wu from Taiwan searches for familiar haunts on Google Street View, she spots something wholly unexpected – and it makes her want to cry. In November 2018, Wu shared her surprising experience with the world. And it touched so many people that it made international news…

Launched in 2007, Google Street View allows users to explore remote locations at “street level” using images gathered by roving Google cars. The photographs are digitally blended into a seamless whole. The result is an immersive panorama that can be explored virtually – as if walking the streets – through any web browser.

Today, Google Street View is a project of leviathan proportions. Its image database spans nearly 40 countries and thousands of cities. In fact, Google’s octopus-like reach is so extensive and established that it is now possible to observe a decade of change in some urban locations.

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Of course, the ability to visually explore distant places is an incredible privilege. We can revisit the site of a fondly-remembered vacation, places in which we once lived, areas where our lives changed, or locations that were simply the backdrop to our daily routine. Unsurprisingly, some online voyagers spend countless hours exploring the world – and the past – with Google Maps.

Consequently, some people stumble across a lot more than they expected. After all, the world is a weird place. In fact, it would be strange if Google didn’t occasionally record some spontaneous anomaly that causes us to look (and think) twice.

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For example, if you were looking at pictures of the right roads using Google Street View, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was a hub of global weirdness. Over the years, Google has documented scores of unusual events on the streets of the city.

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On one occasion, Google’s roving eye captured a giant, plucked, uncooked chicken. Standing upright in an unoccupied lot on a Pittsburgh street corner, the chicken is as tall as a person. And its presence in the frame is as visually jarring as it is surreal.

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Likewise, it is not entirely clear why the person in the image above appeared to be lowering tethered sheets from the top floor of this Pittsburgh house. The building does not appear to be on fire, but the person at the window does nonetheless seem to be trying to escape.

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And then there was this. Of course, sometimes the only way to resolve an issue is the old-fashioned way. At dawn. With samurai swords. On a patch of grass in Pittsburgh. Unfortunately, Google only captured the briefest glimpse of their altercation. Who won the honorable fight remains a mystery.

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In fact, all the images above were staged by artists Ben Kinsley and Robin Hewlett. Their surreal performances were intended to blur the line between reality and fantasy. And they were staged with Google’s knowledge and collaboration.

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“You eventually figure out this was a staged event,” said Kinsley in a video of the project published on Streetwithaview.com. “And we hope viewers, once they realize that, will start exploring [nearby streets] and then not be able to know what is staged and what is real.”

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Speaking to local newspaper The Pittsburgh Post Gazette in 2008, Google spokeswoman Elaine Filadelfo called the stunt “innovative” and “creative.” “It shows that you can discover and experience so many fascinating things [using Street View],” she said.

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Of course, the Pittsburgh artists are not the only people to have effectively trolled Street View users. For example, a creepy group of people in pigeon masks was captured by Google’s cameras in Tokyo close to Mitaka Station in Musashino. Who they were and what they wanted is a mystery.

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But beyond the performances staged for the benefit of Google cameras, there is a realm of even weirder anomalies. That realm is Google Earth. Essentially a giant 3D map of combined satellite images and aerial photos, Google Earth allows users to roam the surface of the planet from a variety of angles and altitudes.

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For example, the rural landscapes of Egypt are among the many intriguing vistas that the project has uncovered. Some say those landscapes are dotted with undiscovered pyramids. And indeed, the formations in the above image seem to suggest human engineering. However, the experts are still undecided about what they might be.

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Likewise, Google Earth revealed the outline of this enormous 5-pointed star in Kazakhstan. The pentagram spans 1,200 feet and is situated on the banks of a reservoir. Although it appears to be a symbol of Satanic worship, it is in fact the outline of a park, designed as a homage to its Soviet roots. At least that’s what we’re told.

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Finally, there’s this demonic face spotted by a Google Maps user in 2010. The visage, which is pictured near a highway in Georgia, has since disappeared from the map. However, many people continue to swear that it was the devil himself.

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Of course, people have always seen religious images in landscapes. The experience is technically known as pareidolia. In short, it is defined as the erroneous perception of a non-existent pattern, such as seeing a man in the moon, or Jesus Christ in a piece of burnt toast.

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But the experience of one woman in Taiwan wasn’t so much pareidolia as synchronicity. According to the psychologist Carl Jung, synchronicity is the “acausal connecting (togetherness) principle.” In other words, a synchronicity is a “meaningful coincidence.”

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It was November 2018 and Danny Wu still missed her mother. Her mom had died from colon cancer four years ago. So Wu decided to visit her deceased parent’s old home via Google Street View. And it was then she experienced synchronicity – the “acausal connecting principle.”

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Indeed, what she saw left her in a happy, if tearful, state. “I went on Google Street View,” she wrote in a Facebook post published on November 11. “…And I actually found my mum.” As it turned out, Wu’s mother had been photographed by a passing Google camera before she died. And she is now eternalized in Street View.

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Wu subsequently shared the Street View images on Facebook and wrote a brief message to her departed mother. “I’ve been looking for you for so long, Mum,” she wrote. “Turns out you have been home all this time.”

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Indeed, the images showed a woman seated among a small forest of green plants on her front doorstep. Her face had been blurred, as per Google’s privacy policy. “Mum, nothing much, we’re all doing well,” ran Wu’s message. “It’s just that we miss you very much.”

Speaking to MailOnline, the website of the Daily Mail newspaper, Wu described her astonishment at seeing her mother pictured outside her house. “I just wanted to cry when I saw her,” she said. “I never thought I’d be able to see my mother again… It was a complete surprise to see her right in front of our home.”

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Moreover, numerous Facebook users were clearly moved by Wu’s experience. Some of them offered up sympathetic comments. Others shared their own experiences of grief. “Your mother has been right beside you all along,” wrote one user called Chen Pinwen.

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One Facebook user called Miao Miao had apparently also experienced seeing a departed relative on Google Street View. “Ever since my dad passed away,” she wrote. “I’ve gone on Google Street View to look at him standing in our courtyard.”

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Likewise, Chiu Chia-Hong had seen a departed pet on Google Street View, stirring fond memories. “In the 2009 version [of Google Street View],” he wrote, “I could see our family’s cute mongrel Luka. That silly dog. I miss him.”

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Meanwhile, readers of MailOnline more than 3,000 miles distant expressed their sympathy for Wu in the site’s comment section. “That’s actually quite nice,” wrote wotithink from Brisbane, Australia. “I wish I could see my mother on Google Street View.”

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In fact, spotting a deceased relative on Google Street View might not be as unlikely as it seems. In 2017, for example, a British woman called Denise Underhill was suddenly and unaccountably gripped by a desire to talk to her late mother, Beryl Turton.

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Turton had died 18 months ago and Underhill no longer lived in the UK. So she decided to see if Google Street View had images of her former family home in Tamworth in Staffordshire.

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“I decided to Google Earth my mother’s home to see how it looked,” Underhill told local newspaper the Tamworth Herald. “She had passed away in 2015 and the property had been sold.”

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However, when she located her old house, she saw a picture of her mother outside watering the plants. “I got the biggest surprise ever!” Underhill told British newspaper the Daily Star. “I just couldn’t believe it. At the foot of the driveway was my mother. She was watering the garden, just as she always did.”

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Moreover, Underhill appeared to be quite uplifted by the experience. “I was absolutely astounded,” she told the Daily Star. “It made my day… You never know what photos are being taken but they really do last a lifetime. I think someone wanted me to see this.”

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Meanwhile, in 2013, a Reddit user by the name of DUCKS_PDX503 started a thread titled “My Grandma on google maps street view.” The thread described how his brother stumbled on a picture of his deceased grandmother at her house in Oregon. The story was subsequently picked up national news broadcasters.

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“It’s really rare you ever see someone you know captured in the google camera,” wrote DUCKS_PDX503. “But, there was my grandma sitting on her front porch reading her newspaper, enjoying life.”

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DUCKS_PDX503 continued, “What surprised me, was that google captured one of the last few pictures of my grandma, because she passed away less than a year after that picture was taken. I thought it was such an uplifting and awesome picture because it showed just how laid back and awesome she was.”

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The story received 484 points and was upvoted by 95 percent of readers. There were 59 comments, too. And most of them were overwhelmingly positive. “That’s an awesome treasure,” wrote P2Pdancer, referring to the image. “I’m sorry for your loss though :(”

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Meanwhile, one user called Dolphinf****r wanted to share his own street view story. “I just remembered my dad is on google maps street view,” he wrote. “He’s always out in the yard or in the garage smoking. So I went to google and they’ve updated the picture. There he is again, new picture, but he’s still puttering about in the yard!”

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But mostly, people on the thread just wanted to share in the good vibes. “She looks so comfortable and happy in her nice little neighborhood,” wrote Rebecksy. “How cool to have found this photo with the sun shining down on her!”

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The American writer Elwyn Brooks White died in 1985, around a decade before the internet went mainstream, and 22 years before the advent of Google Street View. Nonetheless, his words are prescient. “Maps are the places where memories go not to die but to live forever,” he said. How would you feel about being immortalized by Google?

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